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7, XI 

IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 






County Court Judge and Chairman of Quarter Sessions for the United 
Counties of Roscommon and Sligo 

Sometime Scholar of Oriel College, Oxford 

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The favourable reception accorded to a little book, 
"Ireland, 1494-1868," written by me some time ago, for 
the " Historical Series," published by the Cambridge Uni- 
versity Press, has induced me to make this sketch of Irish 
History from 1798 to the present year. The volume 
comprises part of the period I traversed before ; but it 
describes events at much greater length, and enters much 
more into details, than was possible in a very brief epitome ; 
and it embraces a period not treated in the earlier work, 
but of supreme importance to the student of Irish History, 
for it deals with the thirty years which have elapsed since 
1868. It may fairly claim, I think, to be, in all respects, 
an original and independent publication ; I hope it has 
placed the course of Irish affairs, during the last hundred 
years, before a reader, in something like their true historical 
aspect, and in fairly correct perspective. 

I have written this book, I trust, in the spirit in which it 
ought to be written, and -have taken the point of view 
which should be taken in considering the subject. I have 
endeavoured to ascertain the truth and to tell it fearlessly ; 
to point out the correlation of cause and effect in the 
evolution of a melancholy, but most instructive history ; 
to rise, when entering the field of politics, above the blind- 
ing dust of party conflicts ; and to be strictly just in the 
conclusions I have formed as to men and things. But the 
greatest historical writers, when describing contemporaneous 
events, or those near their own times, have not been free 
rom the prejudices and prepossessions caused by tradition, 


education, personal experience, and the circumstances of 
life ; Thucydides and Tacitus, Clarendon and Thiers, are 
more or less partisans ; a humble attendant on a noble 
procession cannot escape from these subtle but all-powerful 
influences. I prize candour and frankness ; and at the risk 
of the charge of egotism, shall say a word as to what these 
associations have been in my own instance. I belong to a 
family which, on both its sides, has been true to the political 
faith of Henry Grattan ; I am naturally, therefore, what is 
still called an Irish Liberal. Two, at least, of my kinsfolk 
voted against the Union in the Irish Parliament ; one — Sir 
John Newport — I remember him when in extreme old age 
— -was one of the last and ablest of the Chancellors of the 
Irish Exchequer, and resented the financial treatment of 
Ireland from 1800 onwards. Except when at school, or 
at Oxford, I was brought up in youth in the class of the 
Irish landed gentry, especially in that of its old Catholic 
Houses ; I am myself an Irish landlord, who have, for half 
a century, managed an ancestral estate, the wreck of a 
great inheritance lost through conquest and confiscation. 
I have listened to Plunket, Bushe, and Maria Edgeworth, 
and knew those eminent personages, as a boy can know 
the old ; I have heard O'Connell in what he called The 
Conciliation Hall, and in the House of Commons ; I have 
often conversed with survivors of the Rebellion of 1798, 
whether of the victorious or the vanquished party, and with 
a few aged members of the Irish Parliament. In later life 
I have been more or less intimate with leading men of the 
Irish Bar and Bench from 1854 to the present time, and 
with many Irish politicians of mark, especially with several 
of the independent gentlemen who opposed Mr. Gladstone's 
measures of Irish finance ; and in a long forensic and 
judicial career I have become familiar with the ideas, the 
sentiments, the ways, the tendencies of my fellow country- 
men of all sorts and conditions. I have been acquainted, 
but only slightly, with three or four Lords-Lieutenant and 
Chief Secretaries of Ireland, and with a very few British 
statesmen ; but I have not had the advantage of knowing 


from a personal side what have been their views on Irish 
political and social questions. Parnell I never saw, and 
had no knowledge of chiefs of the Land and the National 
Leagues ; possibly, for that very reason, I have done less 
justice to the motives of these men than they deserve. For 
the rest, if I am an Irish landlord, I have not had my rental 
practically reduced by Mr. Gladstone's Land Act of 1881 ; 
and I have censured the administration of that mischievous 
agrarian law, an administration, for the faults of which its 
original agents are chiefly responsible, not on personal, but 
on public grounds only. I may add that, for many years, 
I have been a student of Irish History, particularly of the 
history of the Irish Land system ; nearly thirty years ago 
I investigated at length, and on the spot, the subject of 
Irish land tenure for the Times; and the Letters I then 
wrote, appearing as they did in that great organ of public 
opinion, attracted much attention at the time, and con- 
tributed not a little to the passing of the Irish Land Act 
of 1870. These various associations have, as a matter of 
course, affected the statements I have made and the judg- 
ments I have pronounced in these pages. 

Irish History, unfortunately, is not much read in England ; 
I have thought it right to bring together some of the 
authorities which form the chief materials for it, from 1798, 
and the few preceding years, to the present day. The true 
student of History, like the true lawyer, will always ascend 
to the fountain and not merely follow the stream. The 
original sources of Irish History, during the above period, 
may be classified under five heads. I. The Statutes of the 
Irish Parliament up to the Union, from, say, 1799 ; the 
most striking features perhaps of these are the draconic 
Coercion Acts ; but there is a good deal of valuable domestic 
legislation ; and the great Catholic Relief Act of 1793 
should be studied. The Irish Statutes of the Imperial 
Parliament follow ; they also comprise many repressive 
measures, notably the severe Coercion Acts of 1833 and 
1882 ; the principal remedial Acts are the Reform Acts 
from 1832 to 1884; the Acts for reforming the Irish 


Established Church, and for commuting the Tithe ; the 
Poor Law Acts ; the Municipal Corporation Act, and the 
Acts for creating Town Commissioners ; the numerous 
Education Acts ; the Act for Disestablishing the Protestant 
Irish Church ; and the series of Land Acts from 1870 to 
1896. The Bills, which have not become law, are not very 
easily procured ; but some are important and very signifi- 
cant. II. The Irish State Trials. The principal of these 
are the State trials arising out of the Rebellion of 1798 and 
that of Emmet ; the trial of O'Connell and his associates in 
1844 ; the trials of Smith O'Brien and others in 1848 ; and 
the trials of the Fenian conspirators in 1865-6. But by 
many degrees the most important of these judicial inquiries 
are what really was a State trial, the proceedings before the 
Special Commission of 1888-9. The Evidence and the 
Report fill four large volumes ; but they form infinitely 
the best account of the revolutionary and socialistic Irish 
movement of 1879-85, and they should be diligently 
perused. III. The next head consists of the Debates of the 
Irish Parliament, especially the Debates before the Union ; 
and the Debates on Irish Questions in the British and 
Imperial Parliaments from 1799 onwards. The speeches 
of the great statesmen and orators should, of course, be the 
only ones studied. Collections of many of these speeches 
have been separately published. IV. The fourth head com- 
prises the numerous Reports of Parliamentary and other 
Commissions and Committees on Irish affairs ; many of 
these, with the Evidence, are of extreme importance. The 
most remarkable of these are the Report and the Evidence 
on the State of Ireland in 1820-5, an historical document of 
the greatest value ; the Poor Law and Education Reports ; 
the Reports, with the Evidence, on Irish Local Govern- 
ment ; the Report of the celebrated Devon Commission 
and the Digest of the Evidence ; the Mass of Reports, with 
the Evidence, on the Irish Land Acts from 1872 to 1894 ; 
and the Reports and the Evidence on Irish Taxation and 
Finance of 1815 and 1864, ending with the well-known 
Report of the Childers Commission made in 1896, and the 


most important evidence attached to it. V. Under the fifth 
and last head we may range the correspondence of states- 
men, eminent lawyers, and politicians from about 1790 to 
this day. A great deal of this has not seen the light, and 
probably never will ; but some papers, and even volumes, 
are of sterling value. The Correspondence of Castlereagh 
and of Cornwallis is of the first importance for the period of 
the Union and for some time afterwards. Many of the 
letters of Burke on Irish affairs are most interesting and 
instructive. Mr. Lecky's " History of England in the 
Eighteenth Century" contains a large number of des- 
patches and letters on Ireland that deserve notice. Some 
of Pitt's letters on this subject will be found in Lord 
Stanhope's biography of that statesman. The Correspon- 
dence of Peel when Chief Secretary of Ireland appears at 
length in Mr. Parker's volume ; and some Irish papers of 
Wellington, curious and characteristic, are in the huge mass 
of his Supplementary Despatches. Papers by Canning and 
by Lord Wellesley on Irish subjects have been published in 
biographies of these eminent men ; and some letters of 
O'Connell and of Plunket in the accounts of their lives. 
As we approach more recent times documents of this kind 
become rare, but some despatches of Lord Palmerston and 
of Lord Clarendon refer to Ireland, and have been pub- 

As for secondary sources of information, these are ample, 
but of very unequal value. For the history of Ireland down 
to the Union there is nothing to compare to Mr. Lecky's 
"History of England in the Eighteenth Century"; the 
volumes on Irish affairs have been published separately. 
Froude's "The English in Ireland" contains a spirited 
account of the Rebellion of 1798 ; but this is a bad book, 
full of inaccuracies, and written in a spirit offensive to Irish- 
men. Gordon's " History of the Rebellion " is a fair and 
impartial narrative ; the reader should be warned against 
the passionate partisanship of Musgrave, Maxwell, and other 
Orange writers. Plowden's " History of Ireland " is dull 
and diffuse, but gives some useful information on events 



from 1782 to 1800-1. I may also refer to the Irish chapters 
of Mr. Massey's " History of England," to Madden's 
" United Irishmen, " to McNevins' " Precis of Irish 
History," and to Ingram's " History of the Irish Union," 
a bit of clever but false paradox. There is no consecutive 
or complete history of Ireland since the Union ; but a large 
collection of historical and quasi-historical books of different 
degrees of merit may be mentioned. Plowden's second 
work only goes down to 18 10 ; it represents the ideas of a 
loyal Irish Catholic bitterly disappointed by Pitt. The 
" History of Ireland" from the Treaty of Limerick to 1851, 
by John Mitchell, expresses the views of a Presbyterian 
rebel, but is not without value. Wyse's " History of the 
Catholic Association " is a fair narrative, rather out of 
sympathy with O'Connell. I pass by O'Connell's " Ireland 
and the Irish," a book unworthy of such a man ; but the 
" Reports " of the Repeal Association and the " Essays on 
the Repeal of the Union " and the " Spirit " and the 
"Voice" of the "Nation," embodying the views of the Young 
Ireland party, are instructive, and abound in interest. " Two 
Centuries of Irish History," from 1691 to 1870, edited by 
Mr. Bryce, is an able performance from the point of view of 
English Radicalism since 1886. Mr. Barry O'Brien's " Fifty 
Years of Concessions to Ireland " and " Irish Wrongs and 
English Remedies" are elaborate works, full of research 
from the point of view of a powerful and moderate advocate 
of Home Rule. The "Young Ireland," the "Four Years 
of Irish History," and the " League of the North and 
South," by Sir Gavan Duffy ; the " New Ireland," by A. M. 
Sullivan ; and " The Parnell Movement," by Mr. T. P. ! 
O'Connor, M.P., almost complete an account of Ireland 
during the last half century, as this is made up by Irish I 
" Nationalists " ; and to these works may be added passages 
from Mr. McCarthy's "History of Our Own Times" ; Irish 
chapters from recent histories of England ; Miss Lawless's 
slight sketch of " Ireland " in the Story of the Nation 
Series ; and " Ireland since the Union," by Mr. J. H. 
McCarthy. For the Constitutional History of Ireland 


reference may be made to the chapter on Ireland in 
Hallam's "Constitutional History"; but more especially 
to Ball's " Irish Legislative Systems," an elaborate and 
excellent description of the Irish Parliament from the 
earliest times to 1800-1, and also of the proceedings relating 
to the Union. The admirable treatises of Professor Dicey, 
" England's Case against Home Rule," " A Leap in the 
Dark," and " The Verdict " are essays that belong to Con- 
stitutional History ; they should be read, and have never 
been answered. As regards the Ecclesiastical History of 
Ireland, Mant's work may be consulted ; but Ball's 
" Reformed Church of Ireland," which carries the narrative 
down to the Disestablishment Act of 1869, is a much better 
book. Brenan's " Ecclesiastical History " describes the 
fortunes of the Catholic Church of Ireland from remote 
antiquity to Catholic Emancipation. Reid's and Killen's 
works relate to the Irish Presbyterian Church ; and on 
both these subjects there are other publications of more 
or less merit. Books on Irish Education in this century 
are abundant. I shall only mention two, written from 
opposite points of view, " Education in Ireland," by Mr. 
Godkin ; and " The Irish University Question," by Arch- 
bishop Walsh. In addition to more elaborate works, there 
is also a host of essays and tracts, one of great merit by 
Butt, and several also very good by the O'Conor Don and 
others. The economic and social condition of Ireland 
during the last century and a half has been thoroughly 
explored and illustrated by a series of careful and intelligent 
writers. For the period between the American War and 
the Peace of 1815 — a period of supreme importance — the 
celebrated "Tour" of Arthur Young, and the elaborate 
" Account of Ireland," by Edward Wakefield, are by far the 
best narratives ; these are standard works of great merit ; 
but many similar publications of the time are valuable ; and 
special reference may be made to an excellent account of 
the old Irish land system by Mr. Lecky in the 27th chapter 
of his " History of England in the Eighteenth Century." 
Works of this class written in more recent times are less 


frequent ; but the " Irish Disturbances " of Sir G. Lewis, 
published in 1836, is a well-informed essay; "The Irish 
Crisis/' by Sir C. Trevelyan contains a good account of the 
Famine ; the " History of the Great Irish Famine/' by the 
Rev. J. O'Rourke, and the " Irish Landlord since the 
Revolution/' by the Rev. P. Lavelle illustrate the ill-will 
and the passions engendered by that catastrophe ; the 
" Letters on the Condition of Ireland/' by Mr. Campbell 
Foster, republished from the Times are well worth reading ; 
and the "Ireland, Industrial, Political, and Social " of Mr. 
J. N. Murphy is a fair description of the Ireland of 1868-70. 
The Irish Land Question has, within the last forty years, given 
birth to a literature of its own ; I may refer to the 
" Emigration and the Tenure of Irish Land," by Lord 
Dufferin, to the " Irish Land Question " of John Stuart 
Mill ; to the " Irish People and the Irish Land " of 
Butt ; to Judge Longfield's essay on the Irish Land in 
" Systems of Land Tenure " ; to the " Irish Land," an 
excellent little book by the late Sir George Campbell ; and 
to my own " Letters on the Land Question of Ireland," 
republished from the Times. There have been many 
attacks ; I have never seen a defence of the Irish agrarian 
legislation of 1881-96. Mr. Lecky's " Democracy and 
Liberty " (vol. i. chap. 2), criticises it as it deserves. 
The " Ireland " of Lord Grey is an able, but hostile review of 
Mr. Gladstone's Irish legislation since 1868 ; and " Irish 
Nationalism," by the Duke of Argyll, and " New Views on 
Ireland," by Lord Russell of Killowen, an Irishman, the 
present head of the Common Law of England, as the late 
Lord Cairns, an Irishman, was a head of English Equity, 
may be studied with advantage. French literature abounds 
in works and essays on Ireland ; the writings of De 
Beaumont and of M. de-Laveleye are of real merit. 

This period is fruitful in biographies of Irishmen, and of) 
eminent men connected with Ireland, but these also are of 
very different degrees of value. The lives of Flood and Grattan 
are poor performances, but ought to be read ; those of Lord 
Edward Fitzgerald and Sheridan by the poet Moore are, 


well known ; there is no tolerable biography of Burke and 
Lord Clare. The autobiography of Wolfe Tone is a 
remarkable work ; it has been unfairly carped at ; Tone was 
an enemy of England, but an able, enterprising, and 
honourable enemy. Lord Stanhope's " Life of Pitt " is a 
eulogy ; but it contains a good deal concerning Irish affairs 
and the Union ; Lord Rosebery's short tract is superficial 
and misleading ; Macaulay's sketch of Pitt is quite wrong as 
respects the Union and the Minister's conduct. There are 
biographies of more or less merit of O'Connell, of Lord 
Wellesley, of Plunket, of Drummond, of Lord Melbourne, 
of Lord Palmerston, which, and especially that of O'Connell, 
relate a great deal to Ireland ; the " Peel and O'Connell " of 
Mr. Shaw Lefevre, and the " Despatches and Speeches of 
Earl Russell" are conversant with Irish subjects, and are 
works of a biographical character. There are many accounts 
of Mr. Gladstone's political life ; the latest, that written to 
contain the illustrations of " Punch," is a dull andundiscern- 
ing collection of praise ; but it deals, to some extent, with 
Ireland, and there is useful information in it. The Irish 
policy, however, of Mr. Gladstone may best be gathered 
from his own speeches and writings ; and his character as a 
statesman, conspicuously made manifest in his conduct of 
Irish affairs, is revealed in numerous reminiscences, and 
notably in remarks made by Lord Russell, Lord Palmerston, 
and Lord Selborne. Mr. Lecky's " Leaders of Public 
Opinion in Ireland," if a youthful, is a very interesting work : 
the sketch of O'Connell is particularly good, and should be 
studied by Englishmen who have never .done that great man 
justice. The " Memoirs " relating to this period are not 
very numerous ; by far the most important are those of 
Greville, the English Saint-Simon ; these often refer to 
Ireland from 1829 to i860, and are very valuable ; Greville's 
" Past and Present Policy of England towards Ireland " 
bears witness to his fine understanding and impartial mind. 
Other books of this class are the Memoirs of Miles Byrne 
J and of Holt, two rebels of 1798, "The Life and Times of 
j Lord Cloncurry"; "Ireland, Past and Present" by J. W. 


Croker ; " The Memoirs of Lord Hatherton " ; " Journals, 
Conversations, and Essays relating to Ireland," by Nassan 
Senior ; and the Irish chapters in Disraeli's " Life of Lord 
George Bentinck " are exceedingly good. The novels of 
Maria Edgeworth, of Maxwell, of Lever, illustrate the life of 
the upper classes of Ireland as it once was ; those of Lover, 
of Banim, of Carleton, the life of the Irish peasantry. Those 
of Miss Edgeworth are of peculiar excellence; taken 
altogether, these works strikingly attest and explain the 
profound divisions of race, of faith, and of class which 
form the cardinal feature in the social structure of Ireland. 
The Home Rule controversy of 1886-93 has also created a 
literature ; this largely consists of essays and articles, in 
Quarterly and other Reviews and Magazines, some very able 
indeed ; I may refer to the " Parnellite Split," and to two small 
volumes of great merit republished by the Times in 1886 ; 
and to " The Truth about Home Rule," " Ireland under 
Coercion," and many other essays from the Unionist and 
Home Rule points of view. " England's Wealth Ireland's 
Poverty," by Mr. T. Lough, M.P., is a one-sided book, 
but is worth reading. 


Gartnamona, Tullamore, 
February 9, 1898. 




The attitude of Ireland at the Diamond Jubilee — Ireland before the 
events that led to the rebellion of 1798 — Catholic, Presbyterian, 
and Protestant Ireland — Protestant Ascendency — The Land 
system — General state of the Irish community — Agrarian and 
other social disorders — Lawlessness — The Irish Parliament 
after 1782 — The Government and Administration — The Estab- 
lished Church — The Catholic Church — Other incidents and 
features of Irish society — The influence of the French Revo- 
lution in Ireland — Movement in Presbyterian Ulster and among 
the Irish Catholics — Theobald Wolfe Tone — His objects — He 
founds the Society of the United Irishmen, and is made Secre- 
tary of the Catholic Committee — Policy of the Irish Catholic 
leaders — Burke and Pitt — The great Catholic Relief Act of 1793 
— Ireland for a time quiescent — Position of Grattan and his 
prospects — The appointment and recall of Lord Fitzwilliam — 
Sudden change of affairs in Ireland — Fitzgibbon made Earl of 
Clare and virtually head of the Government — Lord Camden 
Lord-Lieutenant — The system of extreme Protestant Ascen- 
dency revived — The United Irish leaders turn to France, and 
become rebellious — Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Arthur 
O'Connor — Progress of the United Irish movement in the 
North and South — The Orange movement — This turned to 
account by the United Irishmen — Increasing danger in Ireland 
— The last efforts of Grattan and his followers — The descent of 
the French on Bantry — Alarming state of Ireland in 1797 — The 
contemplated rebellion is put down in the North — Cruelties 
perpetrated in the South — Arrest of Lord Edward Fitzgerald — 
The rebellion in the South is forced to a head — The rebel 
Directory is broken up. 




Outbreak of the Rebellion in 1798 — It is at once put down in 
Kildare and the adjoining counties — It assumes formidable 
proportions in Wexford — Father John Murphy — Oulart and 
Enniscorthy — The town of Wexford occupied — Battles of 
New Ross and Arklow — Vinegar Hill stormed — End of the 
Rebellion in Wexford— Its dregs linger in Wicklow and other 
counties — Partial rising in Ulster easily put down — Ulster 
quiescent and why — Munster and Connaught hardly stir — 
Lord Camden replaced by Lord Cornwallis — Policy of Corn- 
wallis — The descent of Humbert — Death of Wolfe Tone — 
Complete collapse of the Rebellion — Pitt proposes the Union 
— His policy and conduct — A proposal for a Union fails in the 
Irish Parliament in 1799 — Means employed to bring the Union 
about — Provisions of the Act of Union — Pitt resigns office — 
Review of his conduct — Position of Ireland in the Imperial 



Ireland after the Union — Emmett's rebellion — Severe measures of 
repression — Pitt rejects the Irish Catholic claims — Grattan in 
the Imperial Parliament — The Catholic Question after 1807 — 
Rise and character of O'Connell — His first exertions in the 
Catholic cause — The Veto — Schism in Catholic Ireland — Pro- 
gress of the Catholic Question — Plunket — Peel — Death of 
Grattan — Ulster becomes attached to the Union — Increase of 
the Regium Donum — Protestant Ascendency — Orangeism — 
Ribbonism — Increase of English influences in Ireland and the 
results — The Irish financial arrangements of 1816-17 — Material 
progress of Ireland during the war — Disastrous change after- 
wards — Increase of population — The effects on the Land system 
— Irish rents and wages — Increase of evictions — The resulting 
evils — The want of a Poor Law — The cheap code of ejectment 
— Whiteboyism and agrarian disorder — Peel Chief Secretary — 
Merits and defects of his rule in Ireland — The Irish Constabu- 
lary force — George IV. visits Ireland — His welcome — Outburst 
of agrarian crime and famine in 1822 — Progress of the Catholic 
Question in Parliament — Plunket's speech — Attitude of the 
House of Lords — O'Connell founds the Catholic Association — 
His objects and policy — The Irish priesthood — The Catholic 
Association acquires formidable power — Attempts to suppress 
it prove vain — The Bill of 1825 and "the wings" — Rejected by 



the House of Lords — Liberal Protestants returned at the 
General Election of 1826 — The Clare Election — Triumph of 
O'Connell — Catholic Emancipation reluctantly conceded. 



Catholic Emancipation not carried out in Ireland — O'Connell agi- 
tates against the Union — Failure of the agitation — Peel's great 
speech on the Union — The Irish Reform Act — The system of 
National Education in Ireland — The Tithe War — Severe 
measure of repression — Reform of the Established Church in 
Ireland — Proposal of O'Connell — Ten Sees extinguished — The 
Tithe Question — The Appropriation Clause — Resignation of 
Stanley and three of his colleagues — The episode of Littleton 
and O'Connell — Fall of the Grey Government — Retrospect of 
its Irish policy — The first Melbourne Government — A Tithe 
Commutation Bill rejected by the House of Lords — The first 
government of Peel — Another Commutation Bill — Peel defeated 
on a Resolution for appropriation — Alliance between the Whigs 
and O'Connell — Emancipation made a reality — Improvement 
of the Irish Constabulary force and other reforms — Protestant 
Ascendency and Orangeism discountenanced — Good results — 
Thomas Drummond — The Tithe commuted but without appro- 
priation — The Irish Poor law — Reform of the Irish Corporations 
— The Melbourne Government unpopular in England — 
O'Connell's conduct contributes to this — Fall of the Melbourne 
Government — The second Administration of Peel — O'Connell 
revives the movement against the Union — His efforts for a 
time fail — The movement gradually acquires strength — The 
Young Ireland party — The monster meetings — Attitude of 
O'Connell — The movement attracts great attention abroad — 
Policy of Peel — The Clontarf meeting stopped — Arrest and 
trial of O'Connell — The sentence reversed in the House of 
Lords — Vacillation of O'Connell — Decline of his power — The 
movement collapses. 



Peel inaugurates a new policy for Ireland — Its principles — 
Charitable bequests — Maynooth — The increased grant to the 
College — Furious opposition to the measure — Its results not 


important — The Queen's Colleges — Principles of this scheme 
of education — Opposition of the Catholic Irish heirarchy — The 
Colleges a comparative failure — The Devon Commission — 
State of the Irish land system — The Report of the Commission 
— The failure of the potato in 1845 — Widespread distress — The 
policy of Peel — Destruction of the potato in 1846 — Famine in 
parts of Ireland — Policy of Lord John Russell and his Govern- 
ment — The Labour Rate Act — Useless Public Works — Relief in 
food — The Poor Law enlarged — Magnificent private charity — 
Thousands perished, but millions were saved — Emigration on 
an enormous scale — Death of O'Connell — His character — Final 
breach between O'Connell's party and Young Ireland — Smith 
O'Brien — An Irish Revolutionary party — Mitchell, Meagher, 
John Finton Lalor — Arrest and transportation of Mitchell — 
A rising planned — The Government forces it to a head — Arrest 
and sentence of Smith O'Brien and his principal adherents — 
Collapse of the movement of 1848. 


//FROM 1848 TO 1868 166 

The Irish Exodus — Sufferings of the emigrants — Mistake of the 
Government — Aversion to Ireland felt in England — The Rate 
in Aid Act — The Encumbered Estates Act — Results of this 
measure — The Queen's visit to Ireland in 1849 — The Tenant 
Right Movement of 1850-52 — Its progress and failure — The 
National system of Education, and the Queen's Colleges con- 
demned at the Synod of Thurles — The Census of 1851 and 
subsequent years — Revival of Ireland after the Famine in 1853 
and afterwards — Growth of material prosperity — Social pro- 
gress — Comparative tranquillity and order — State of landed 
relations — The Irish representation in Parliament — Cardinal 
Cullen and the Catholic Church in Ireland — The tranquillity of 
the country largely deceptive — Omens of future evils — 
Influence of the American- Irish on the people at home — 
Mischievous results — James Stephens and the Phoenix Society 
— Changes in the fiscal system of Ireland from 1853 to i860 — 
The Income Tax imposed — The spirit duties raised — Great 
increase of taxation — Injustice of this policy — The Irish move- 
ment in America — Fenianism — Its characteristics — Secret 
societies in America and Ireland — Their operations — Arrest 
of Fenian leaders in 1865 — Abortive Fenian risings — Attack on 
Chester Castle — The Manchester executions and the Clerken- 
well explosion. 




Change of opinion in England and Scotland, with respect to Ireland, 
after the Fenian outbreak — Demand for reforms in Ireland — 
The position of the Irish Established Church — Combination of 
parties against it — Mr. Gladstone insists on its Disestablishment 
and Disendowment — He becomes Prime Minister after the 
General Election of 1868 — The Act of 1869 disestablishing and 
disendowing the Church — Its characteristics and results — The 
Land System of Ireland in 1870 — The Land Act of 1870 — L ~" 
Origin of the Irish Home Rule movement — Isaac Butt — His 
scheme of Home Rule — Mr. Gladstone ridicules this policy — 
The Irish Education Bill of 1873 — Its grave defects— It fails 
to pass the House of Commons — Other Irish measures — Fall 
of Mr. Gladstone's Government — A large Home Rule party in 
Parliament after the General Election of 1874 — Policy of Butt 
and his followers — Home Rule rejected with contempt in the 
House of Commons — Failure of other measures proposed by 
Butt — Unfortunate results — Butt's authority, as a leader, de- 
clines — Rise of Parnell — His antecedents and character — 
Policy of obstruction — Ability already shown by Parnell — Still 
further decline of Butt's influence — Irish measures of Lord 
Beaconfield's Government — State of Ireland in 1877-8 — Decep- 
tive prosperity — Symptoms of danger — Optimism of Mr. Glad- 
stone and other statesmen. 



Death of Butt— Michael Davitt — He arranges the "New Departure" 
with Fenians in America — Essential character of this move- 
ment — Davitt founds the Land League — Parnell its head and 
master-spirit — Nature and objects of the League — Distress in 
Ireland at the end of 1870, — Conduct of Irish landlords — 
Parnell's visit to America — The General Election of 1880 — 
Progress of the Land League — The Compensation for Dis- 
turbance Bill rejected by the House of Lords — Outburst of 
crime and anarchy in Ireland — This continues for many months, 
and only increases — An unwise measure of repression — The 
Land Act of 1881 — Its characteristics and vices — Attitude of 
the Land League leaders — Arrest of Parnell and others — The 
No Rent manifesto — Increase of disorder — The Kilmainham 



Treaty — The Phoenix Park murders — Indignation in England 
— Severe Coercion Act, resisted by Parnell and his followers — 
Punishment of crime — Disorder put down — The National 
League founded — The Administration of the Land Act of 
1 88 1 — Artful policy of Parnell — Connection between the 
National League and the party of violence in America — Parnell 
and his party in opposition to Mr. Gladstone — The Reform 
Act of 1884 — Fall of Mr. Gladstone's Government. 



Home Rule in the Parliament of 1880-5 — Lord Salisbury in office — 
Attitude of the Conservative party as regards Irish affairs — The 
General Election of 1885 — Mr. Gladstone suddenly adopts the 
policy of Home Rule — The probable reasons — Increase of 
disorder in Ireland — Fall of Lord Salisbury's Government — Mr. 
Gladstone forms a Ministry — His principal followers refuse to 
support Home Rule— The Home Rule Bill of 1886— The Land 
Purchase Bill — Characteristics of Mr. Gladstone's Scheme — 
Defeat of the Home Rule Bill — The General Election of 1886 — 
Complete defeat of Mr. Gladstone — Lord Salisbury again in 
office — The Chicago Convention — Parnell's Land Bill rejected 
in the House of Commons — Renewal of agitation in Ireland — 
Boycotting and the Plan of Campaign — The Crimes Act of 1887 
— Mr. Balfour Chief Secretary — Persistent obstruction in the 
House of Commons — Conflict with disorder in Ireland — Con- 
duct of Mr. Gladstone and the Opposition — The Land Act of 

^ 1887 — The Special Commission — Report of the Judges — Par- 
nell's policy — Verdict against him in the Divorce Court — 
Schism and break up of his party — His fall and death — Policy 
of Land Purchase in Ireland — The Act of 1891 — The Local 
Government Bill for Ireland — It is dropped — The General 
Election of 1892 — The Government defeated by a small 
majority — England still opposed to Home Rule — Mr. Glad- 
stone again in office — The Home Rule Bill of 1893 — Its 
glaring defects — Debates in the House of Commons — 
Closure by compartments — The Bill rejected in the House 
of Lords — Mr. Gladstone retires from public life — Lord 
Rosebery Prime Minister — His Irish administration and that 
of Mr. Morley — General Election of 1895 — Complete defeat 
of Home Rule — Lord Salisbury in office — Fusion of Unionist 
parties in the Government — The Land Act of 1896 — The re- 
port of the Childers Commission — Ireland at the close of 1897. 



IRELAND IN 1898 325 

Material condition of Ireland in 1898 — Ireland still divided into 
three peoples — Position of Catholic, Presbyterian, and Pro- 
testant Ireland in the State — Fall of Protestant Ascendency 
and the resulting consequences — Landed relations in Ireland L~ 
— Complete change effected in the interest of the tenant class, 
and to the injury of the landed gentry — Prevailing tone of 
sentiment and opinion in Catholic, Presbyterian, and Protes- 
tant Ireland — Lingering feeling of disaffection among the 
lower classes of the Irish Catholics — The Irish Presbyterians 
devotedly loyal — Feelings of the Irish Protestants and espe- • 
daily of the landed gentry — The present institutions of Ireland 
— Results of the disappearance of the Irish Parliament — State 
of the representation 1 of Ireland — The Disestablished Church 
and the Catholic Church of Ireland — State of Irish literature — 
Low standard of education in Ireland, except at Trinity College 
— Results of the Union — The Home Rule policy — The demand 
for Home Rule largely fictitious — Proposal to hold the Imperial 
Parliament in Dublin occasionally — The Irish Land system — 
Imperative necessity of reform — The Financial Relations 
Question — Local Government and a Catholic University — 
Other reforms expedient — Reflections — Conclusion. 





The attitude of Ireland at the Diamond Jubilee — Ireland before the 
events that led to the rebellion of 1798 — Catholic, Presbyterian, and 
Protestant Ireland — Protestant Ascendency — The Land system — 
General state of the Irish community — Agrarian and other social 
disorders — Lawlessness — The Irish Parliament after 1782 — The 
Government and Administration — The Established Church — The 
Catholic Church — Other incidents and features of Irish society — 
The influence of the French Revolution in Ireland — Movement in 
Presbyterian Ulster and among the Irish Catholics — Theobald 
Wolfe Tone — His objects — He founds the Society of the United 
Irishmen, and is made Secretary of the Catholic Committee — 
Policy of the Irish Catholic leaders — Burke and Pitt — The great 
Catholic Relief Act of 1793 — Ireland for a time quiescent — Position 
of Grattan and his prospects — The appointment and recall of Lord 
Fitzwilliam — Sudden change of affairs in Ireland — Fitzgibbon made 
Earl of Clare and virtually head of the Government — Lord Camden 
Lord- Lieutenant — The system of extreme Protestant Ascendency 
revived — The United Irish leaders turn to France, and become 
rebellious — Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Arthur O'Connor — Pro- 
gress of the United Irish movement in the North and South — The 
Orange movement — This turned to account by the United Irishmen 
— Increasing danger in Ireland — The last efforts of Grattan and his 
followers — The descent of the French on Bantry — Alarming state 
of Ireland in 1797 — The contemplated rebellion is put down in the 
North — Cruelties perpetrated in the South — Arrest of Lord Edward 
Fitzgerald — The rebellion in the South is forced to a head — The 
rebel Directory is broken up. 

My purpose in this work is to sketch the history of Ireland 
during the last hundred years. Recent events must have 
directed the minds of thinking Englishmen of all conditions 
to a subject, if distasteful, not the less important. A few 
months only have passed since the world, it may be said, 

2 l 

2 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

commemorated, with all but universal acclaim, the sixtieth 
anniversary of the reign of Queen Victoria ; and the loyalty 
and devotion of a mighty Empire, compared to which that 
of Rome was but a small possession, were expressed in 
passionate, touching, and truly heartfelt sympathy. Repre- 
sentatives of kings and peoples from the four continents 
appeared to do homage to our aged sovereign ; princes 
and leading men of her nations of subjects, from the vast 
Australian land to the Indian peninsula, and thence to 
the Great Lakes of Canada, assembled round her throne 
to give her a duteous greeting. In the immense pageant, 
gathered within "streaming London's central roar," that 
seemed drawn from all parts of the earth, the pomp of 
Christianity, the magnificence of war, and the majesty of a 
great people, added to the grandeur of a spectacle never 
witnessed before. The supremacy of Britain at sea was 
made manifest in an array of warships of unequalled power ; 
and the voices of England and Scotland went forth, in one 
note of praise, in remembrance of the glories of a splendid 
era, and of its peaceful and orderly social progress. But a 
spectre was not wanting at the great festival ; if Ireland 
made her presence at all felt, it was, for the most part, to 
show that she had no fellow-feeling with it. Distinguished 
Irishmen were to be found, no doubt, in the multitudinous 
throngs of London ; hills in Ireland blazed with rejoicing 
fires ; the Jubilee was welcomed by parts of the Irish 
community. But a large majority of the representatives 
of the Irish people kept studiously aloof, and even made 
use of language in Parliament that must be deplored; several 
of the chief Irish municipal bodies refused to send addresses 
in honour of the Queen ; disgraceful scenes of rioting 
occurred in Dublin, while London and Edinburgh were 
alive with rejoicing. Large parts of Ireland are not one in 
heart with England, are sullen, discontented, and in no 
sense loyal ; and, even as I write, preparations are being 
made to celebrate the last rising against our rule, which had 
even the faintest prospects of success. 

The causes of these phenomena certainly run up to Irish 


history in the remote past ; but they appear, also, in the 
period I shall now briefly survey. I shall glance at the condi- 
tion of Ireland before it was affected by the influences and the 
train of events that precipitated the Rebellion of 1798. The 
country had grown out of the state of misery, of desolation, 
of often-recurring famines, of which we read in the pages of 
Swift and Berkeley ; settled government, the relaxation of 
the Penal Code, and the concession of a partial free trade 
had contributed largely to its material progress. Limerick 
and Gal way had gradually declined, and many of the inland 
towns were mere squalid villages ; but Dublin had expanded 
into a fine capital, adorned by remarkable public buildings ; 
Cork had greatly advanced since the American War; Belfast, 
a hamlet in the time of William III., had become a thriving 
seat of manufacture and trade. Agriculture was still ex- 
tremely backward ; the face of the landscape had little in 
common with the prosperity and richness of that of England ; 
the southern parts of Minister, and nearly the whole of 
Con naught, were ill- cultivated and in a state of wretchedness. 
But fine seats of a resident gentry appeared in many counties; 
it was, in fact, during the preceding thirty years that most of 
the large demesnes of Ireland were formed ; and the un- 
fenced wastes of pasturage, which once spread everywhere, 
were widely replaced by breadths of tillage. The rental of the 
island had doubled, nay, trebled, within living memory ; the 
rate of the interest of money had much fallen ; the breeds 
of farming animals had become better ; and the Corn 
Laws of the Irish Parliament had added to the national 
wealth, for the present at least. The commerce of Ireland 
remained small, but it had been augmented since it had 
acquired freedom ; and her manufactures, kept down for 
more than a century, especially her linen manufacture, were 
making real progress. The means of locomotion, a sure 
sign of improvement, had greatly multiplied of late years ; 
and the National Debt of Ireland was not much more than 
^2,000,000 sterling, a mere trifle compared to that of Great 
Britain, and was defrayed by a taxation relatively small. 1 

1 For the condition of Ireland about this period, the reader may 
consult Arthur Young's " Tour," Crump's Essay, and a number of 
speeches in the Irish Parliament. 

4 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

The population of Ireland at this time was between four 
and five millions of souls. It comprised three really distinct 
peoples, divided from each other in race and faith, and by 
long and evil memories of an unhappy past. The Catholic 
Irish were more than three millions — the broken remnants of 
the old Celtic tribes, held down for more than two centuries 
in mere subjection. Only a few of their natural leaders 
remained ; some of these had carried their swords into 
foreign lands ; many had sunk into the mass of the serfs 
in their midst. This people vegetated on the soil in the 
three Southern Provinces, and on more than a half of the 
North, under the domination of alien masters, the heirs of 
the worst kind of conquest, with confiscation in its train. 
The gradual amelioration of the Penal Code had made a 
few Catholics owners of land, and many Catholics had 
amassed wealth by commerce ; but the great body were a 
degraded peasantry, and the Irish Catholic was still excluded 
from the State, and deprived of political and almost of social 
influence. The Presbyterian Irish, the second people, for 
the most part of Scottish descent, were settled in the north- 
eastern parts of Ulster, and in what are known as the Planta- 
tion Counties ; they were hardly more than half a million of 
souls ; they were a population of farmers and traders, strong 
in their local association and their hardy natures, but widely 
divided from the ruling classes and possessing scarcely any, 
authority in the State. Presbyterian Ireland had suffered 
much from teasing persecution since the day of Strafford ; it 
had felt the oppressiveness of a harsh land system and of 
legislation restricting commerce ; it had taken a decided 
part against England at the crisis of the American War ; 
and, while it retained a traditional dislike of the Irisl 
Catholic, it was discontented with the existing order ol 
things in Ireland. The Protestants of the Anglican Estab- 
lished Church, mostly of English blood, formed the thin 
people ; they were considerably more numerous than th< 
Presbyterians, but they were scattered over all parts of th< 
country, and composed an aristocracy of a peculiar kind 
whether in its high or its low gradations, standing apar 


from the two other communities and raised to a factitious 
superiority by law. They were the owners of nine-tenths of 
the land of the country, the grantees of immense and suc- 
cessive forfeitures ; they had engrossed every seat in the 
Irish Parliament ; they had a monopoly of privileges in 
Church and State ; they controlled the administration of 
local affairs, and had municipal government wholly in their 
hands. From the peer to the artisan and the peasant, they 
represented the Protestant Ascendency, as it was called, still 
completely dominant in Ireland at this time. 

That Ascendency had, in days happily passed, interfered 
grievously with Irish commerce, oppressing the Catholic 
even in this province. It was now chiefly apparent in the 
land system ; and though the worst features of this had been, 
in part, softened, it had not been essentially changed. 
Economically that system was inconsistent with prosperity 
and goodwill in landed relations. Enormous tracts of land 
were possessed by absentees, and were thus left without the 
good influence of ownership on the spot. Millions of acres 
had been let to a class called middlemen, w T ho had sub-let 
their holdings often three and four deep ; the land was thus 
kept in a gradation of tenures, oppressive in the extreme to 
the occupier of the soil and opposed to security and social 
progress. The vices of the system, however, had been made 
much worse owing to the position and the relation of the 
races and classes seated on the land. Of the Catholics settled 
in Leinster, Minister, and Connaught, and, to a considerable 
extent, in Ulster, apart from the very few who were owners 
of land, a certain number had become large farmers, and 
some, since the Penal Code had been weakened, had risen 
into the ranks of the middlemen. But the immense majority, 
we have said, were a subject peasantry, who held by precarious 
tenures and often at rack-rents, and who eked existence out 
on the frail potato ; as the population had began to multiply, 
the poverty of this class had probably increased. This was 
the lot, too, in some degree, of the Presbyterian farmer of 
the North ; he was in many respects a hardly treated peasant, 
though he had succeeded, owing to a long established 

6 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

custom, in securing for himself an improved tenure, which 
gave him a better position than his Catholic fellow. Over 
these classes stood the class of the owners of the land, 
divided, we have seen, from their dependents by deep lines 
of distinction. A considerable number of this order of men 
formed a body of kindly and improving landlords and a 
really valuable landed gentry ; a submissive peasantry had 
become attached to them. But hundreds never beheld 
their estates; hundreds had practically given them up to 
middlemen ; and, as the wealth of Ireland had advanced, 
not a few had sought to increase their rentals, and had 
become merciless, harsh, and exacting. In fact, in the 
position they held, they were formed to habits of oppression, 
nay, of extortion, and they yielded to this temptation in too 
many instances. 

The sentiments, the ideas, the tone of opinion which had 
been formed in this order of things were those of a com- 
munity not in a healthy state, and in many respects were 
pregnant with evils. The influences of the eighteenth 
century, the almost national movement which had pro- 
duced the Volunteers, the establishment of the Parliament 
of 1782, and the gradual repeal of the Penal Code had 
softened away, to some extent, the differences which 
divided the Irish peoples, and had been fruitful of the 
promise of a better era. A minority of the dominant 
Protestants, tending to increase, wished to admit the Irish 
Catholic within the pale of the State, and even to give 
him some measure of political power. Catholic Ireland, 
also, had begun to stir and to seek the rights that belong 
to free men ; and though its aristocratic leaders held 
weakly back, its growing mercantile and middle class had 
made its influence distinctly felt, and had even set a 
menacing agitation on foot. The social ostracism, too, 
of the Irish Catholics, once complete, had largely dis- 
appeared. The Catholic and Protestant upper classes lived 
together, for the most part, in harmony, and had even 
begun to blend in marriage ; but the great majority of the 
Protestant people was still opposed to the Catholic claims 


and to raising the Catholics out of subjection ; they still 
looked on their inferiors as a race of pariahs, and resented 
the concessions which British Ministers had gradually 
made to their Catholic fellow-subjects. The attitude of the 
great body of the Irish Catholics was still that of abject 
servility in nearly all the relations of life, especially in those 
that belonged to the land. The devotion often shown by 
the peasant to his lord was largely that of the submissive- 
ness of the slave ; and virtuous as the Irish Catholic women 
were, they too commonly yielded to the lusts of their 
masters. Occasionally, however, this downtrodden people 
could show that it was made of sterner stuff. Deprived 
of the protection of an equal law, the Irish Catholic had 
recourse to a law of his own ; and the peasantry banded 
themselves into secret societies, controlled usually by 
unknown leaders, to resist the oppression which was their 
ordinary lot. These societies, which may be traced back 
to the confiscations of the past, were known by the 
general name of Whiteboy — possibly taken from that of 
the Camisards of the Cevennes ; and they occasionally 
established in whole counties a system of barbarous 
organised crime, which spread misery and terror far and 
wide. These agrarian disorders, as they have ever since 
been called, were general and atrocious as late as 1787, and 
indeed have never completely ceased in Ireland ; it is one 
of their characteristics that they readily coalesce with 
revolutionary movements against the State. 1 

Presbyterian Ireland had also, to some extent, combined 
to condemn the order of things which it felt around it. 
Societies of " Oakboys " and " Steelboys," as their names 
were, had been formed to resist excessive rents and the 
tithes of the alien Established Church ; in some districts 
these had been guilty of outrage. These associations, 
however, had not been permanent ; and the discontent of 
the Presbyterian Irish had chiefly exhibited itself in large 

1 The Irish Statute- Book is perhaps the best commentary on the 
Whiteboy system. Sir George Lewis's "Irish Disturbances" is an 
excellent work. 

8 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

flights of emigrants, who carried into the Far West the 
dislike of a stern race to aristocratic rule in Ireland, and 
promoted the disloyalty felt at home. The Irish Pres- 
byterians had, to a great extent, forsaken the Calvinism 
of their Scotch fathers ; they had been widely leavened 
by the democratic and socialistic doctrines which, pre- 
sented by the genius of Rousseau, had become prevalent 
in France and even in Europe. As for the Irish Protes- 
tants, they possessed the qualities which their ascendency 
naturally produced and developed. A tone of offensive 
superiority and of self-assertion was very conspicuous in 
the lower orders, especially in the corporate bodies of the 
towns and in the farmers scattered among the Catholic 
peasantry. The middlemen were, for the most part, 
Protestants ; these formed a grasping and almost an 
odious class — exacting and often cruel to their dependent 
Helots, addicted to vices and even to crime, and especially 
to abductions to secure wealthy marriages. The superior 
gentry were a different order of men ; elements of a real 
aristocracy were to be found in the class, though these 
were not perhaps common. They usually lived well with 
the Catholic gentry ; they were remarkable for the bril- 
liancy of their social life ; not a few were eminent for 
fine talents. But they were largely demoralised by the 
state of things in which they existed ; they had the faults 
of an exclusive and small ruling class ; they looked up 
too much to the Government, of which they formed a great 
part, and looked down too much on their subject inferiors ; 
and if their manners and bearing were courtly and high, 
they were extravagant, given to excess, and most reckless 
duellists. They had much in common with the Seigneurs 
of Old France, whose position in the State resembled 
their own. 

A spirit of lawlessness in all classes — a sure sign of the 
absence of a righteous law — was perhaps the most general 
and distinctive feature of the social life of Ireland at this 
period. We turn to the institutions of the ill-ordered 
country — the moulds, so to speak, in which the com- 


munity was cast. The Irish Parliament had been all but 
independent in name, since it had been established on a 
new basis after the Revolution of 1782. It was in theory 
coequal with the Houses of Westminster — a sovereign body 
in Irish iaffairs, capable of legislation on almost all sub- 
jects, not liable to the control of British Ministers. 
Ireland, under this system, was, in the abstract, united 
with Great Britain by the tie of the Crown only. The 
King of England and Scotland was also the King of 
Ireland; but subject to restrictions little more than nominal 
— the passing of Irish statutes under the Greal Seal of 
England and the long -obsolete Royal Veto — the Irish 
Parliament could do well-nigh what it pleased — could 
make laws and resolutions almost at will. It had even 
an inherent right to direct the Executive Power in Ireland, 
to appoint or to dismiss Ministers, and thus to have the 
whole Irish Administration in its hands. The Consti- 
tutional powers of the Irish Parliament were, however, 
very different in fact from what they seemed on paper. 
It was an Assembly composed of a small body of Pro- 
testants of the higher orders, depending on British 
government, it may be said, for everything ; its members 
were British in race and faith ; above all, it was kept in 
subjection by general and profuse corruption, which had 
greatly increased since it had acquired freedom. As a 
rule, therefore, it was in harmony with the British Par- 
liament, and followed the leading of the British Ministry ; 
and especially it always accepted the men sent from 
Downing Street to rule Ireland, and it never attempted 
to form an Irish Cabinet, or even to make or unmake 
an Irish Executive. The Irish Parliament, nevertheless, 
had more than once shown that it had a will of its own ; 
it was especially jealous of its independence, and on three 
occasions since 1782 it had come in conflict with British 
policy, and in some degree with the British Parliament, 
with consequences that might have been unfortunate. 
Many English statesmen already deemed it a dangerous 
and eccentric force, difficult to keep within the orbit 

io IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

of the State, and contemplated its abolition by a 
Union. 1 

The British Parliament at this period represented the 
people imperfectly at best. It was largely controlled by 
the House of Lords and by the landed aristocracy in the 
House of Commons ; property, wealth, and influence were 
too powerful in it. But it fairly reflected the national will 
when this was clearly and forcibly expressed ; and it was 
guided by a public opinion in the main wholesome. The 
Irish Parliament was a mere caricature of its great original 
seated at Westminster ; it was in no sense an image of the 
Irish community as a whole. The House of Lords con- 
tained about 200 members, composed of some 24 prelates 
of the Established Church — submissive instruments of the 
Government of the day — and of about 180 lay peers, with 
rare exceptions newly ennobled men, descendants of the 
old plebeian settlers, and often raised to their high place 
by the bad corruption, which made them follow the beck 
of the men at the Castle. The Irish House of Commons 
had 300 members, and formed one of the strangest 
assemblies that ever pretended to the name of popular. 
Each of the 32 counties had two seats ; a shadow of free 
election existed in these, though here the influence of great 
landlords was almost supreme. Two hundred and thirty-six 
seats were engrossed by 118 boroughs, each borough pos- 
sessing two seats ; and of these only 24 were nominally free, 
the remainder being really appanages of the Crown, of peers, 
bishops, and wealthy commoners, and of corporate bodies, 
usually petty and corrupt. Nine-tenths of the boroughs 
were small towns and villages with no distinctive influence 
of their own ; they were so completely under a mere 
oligarchy that 25 persons, it was alleged, were absolute 
masters of 126 seats. The Government, as a rule, could 
count on an overwhelming preponderance of votes ; and 
of the 300 members more than a third were placemen and 

1 For the constitution and character of the Irish Parliament, see 
Ball's " Irish Legislative Systems," chap, xiii., and Lecky's " History of 
Ireland," chap. xxiv. 301-324. 


pensioners dependent on it. The two Houses, it is scarcely 
necessary to add, were composed wholly of Irish Protes- 
tants, Catholic Ireland being excluded by law, Presbyterian, 
it would appear, by established custom ; and the House of 
Commons was chosen by an electorate in which not a 
single Catholic was to be found, and which was so small 
in numbers and essentially weak that even Protestant 
Ireland was ill represented in it. 

It is remarkable, and a significant proof that institutions 
of a representative kind, however faulty, may have good 
results, that a Parliament constituted as this was produced, 
nevertheless, many eminent men. Its vices and abuses 
were, however, manifest : Flood, a very able and far-seeing 
man, had endeavoured to array the Volunteers against it, 
and had twice attempted in vain to reform it ; and it was 
fiercely denounced by Presbyterian Ireland, the Irish 
Catholics, too, lately taking part, as an exclusive, corrupt, 
and unjust Assembly — the mere embodiment of evil power 
and influence. 1 Naturally, however, it would not reform 
itself, the argument "that things worked well" having 
weight, since Ireland had made progress ; and the men in 
power at Westminster eagerly concurred ; the instrument 
was fashioned to serve their purposes. The Irish Parlia- 
ment contained three distinct parties, the first forming an 
immense majority, the nominees of the Crown, of corporate 
bodies, of great nobles and of powerful commoners, but 
distinguished men were found in its ranks. The master 
spirit of this following, though as yet in a subordinate 
office only, was John Fitzgibbon, a lawyer of humble birth, 
who had forced himself forward by his strong intellect, 
and was to play a commanding part in a subsequent 
troubled era. Fitzgibbon was deeply read in his country's 
history ; he was a capable and daring man of action ; but 
he was a champion of Protestant Ascendency in the 

*A petition from Belfast, presented in 1784, described "the Irish 
House of Commons as not the representation of a nation, but of mean 
and venal boroughs," with other indignant expressions. Lecky, vol. vi. 
p. 366. See also Froude's " English in Ireland," ii. pp. 390-3. 

12 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

strictest sense ; he believed that concessions to the Irish 
Catholics would lead to revolution and complete anarchy ; 
I and he insisted on keeping things in Ireland without change 
or reform. The second party, small in numbers, but con- 
taining very able men, represented the once powerful 
school of Flood : it sought to reform the Parliament on a 
Protestant basis, but it refused the Catholics political rights ; 
its ideal was Protestant Ascendency, improved but com- 
plete. The third party was that of the illustrious Grattan : 
it comprised the best intellect in both Houses, the flower 
of the liberal landed gentry, and many brilliant and pro- 
found lawyers. The aim of Grattan was to combine the 
separate peoples of Ireland into a united nation enjoying 
just political rights, and to give the Irish Presbyterian and 
the Irish Catholic the franchises of citizens equal before 
the law. But Grattan had no notion that Ireland should 
break off from Great Britain ; he was jealous indeed of the 
Parliamentary rights of Ireland, but he was deeply attached 
to the British connection ; he upheld Property, Order, and 
Law ; and if he sought to gain for Catholic Ireland liberty, 
he maintained Protestant Ascendency in the sense that 
its ownership of the land must give it preponderating 
power. Grattan inclined to a reform of the Irish Parlia- 
ment ; but for the present at least his chief object was to 
check its corruption and to remove its abuses. He was 
a real statesman, and one of the most brilliant orators who 
have appeared either in England or Ireland. 

The Constitution of the Irish Parliament was thus calcu- 
lated to make Ireland, though indirectly, a subject country, 
and to keep the system of Protestant Ascendency intact. 
The Lord-Lieutenant and his Chief Secretary had the 
administration of the higher offices ; they were, without 
exception, at this time Englishmen ; they had practically, 
the Executive Government in their hands. They were 
usually capable and well-meaning men, but they were 
ignorant of Ireland like most British statesmen ; their policy 
was to keep things in their present grooves, to distribute 
the patronages of the State among the leading Protestants, 


and to rule by corruption and similar methods. The 
second Pitt, now in power, was no exception ; he had 
refrained from reforming the Irish Parliament, and he main- 
tained Protestant Ascendency as it was. The only healing 
measure he thought of at this time was a commutation of 
the tithes of the Established Church ; and probably the dis- 
ciple of Adam Smith, like his master, had a union in view. 

We pass on to what was deemed to be another great 
bulwark of the existing order of things. The Established 
Church, a scion of the Norman Church of the Pale, 
had been dominant for more than two centuries ; it had 
grown with the growth of confiscation and conquest ; its 
yoke lay heavily on the Presbyterian Irish, and on Catholic 
Ireland far more grievously. As a missionary Church it 
had completely failed, supported as it had been by the 
whole power of the State ; the number of its members had 
relatively declined, and like all institutions that do not 
fulfil their purpose, it had become an anomaly injurious 
to the general welfare. It had had some eminent prelates 
and divines, but its bishops and leading clergy were for the 
most part mere servants of the Castle and of the ruling 
caste, from which they were in a great measure drawn, and 
they were usually self-seeking and worldly men, chiefly 
intent on amassing immense wealth. The inferior clergy 
formed a more worthy class, but they were voices that 
preached in vain in a wilderness — they had made no im- 
pression on the millions that knew them not, and while 
the revenues of the Church were enormous, 1 they starved 
in the midst of this ill-divided plenty. The abuses and 
corruptions in the Establishment almost passed belief, and 
huge pluralities, parishes without a priest, cathedrals and 
churches falling into ruins, were the visible signs of this 
evil state of things. The worst feature, however, of the 
system, as regards the great body of the people, has yet 
to be noticed. The Church was the owner of most of the 

1 Arthur Young, vol. ii. p. 112, and Wakefield, "An Account of 
Ireland," vol. ii. pp. 469-70, dwell on the extravagant wealth of the 
Irish Establishment. 

14 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

tithe of Ireland, and it levied this impost from alien and 
hostile communions, by methods alike cruel and disgraceful. 
This was a special wrong to Catholic Ireland, for its Church 
had once possessed nearly all the tithe, and as the vast 
pastoral lands in the Southern Provinces had been practi- 
cally exempted from the charge, this fell most oppressively 
on the Catholic tiller of the soil. 

The Church of Catholic Ireland presented a contrast to 
the Church of the dominant race of a remarkable kind. 
In remote ages the Church of the Celtic tribes, and almost 
out of communion with Rome, it had become the devoted 
ally of the Papacy ; and in the fierce and protracted 
contests of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it had 
been a principal champion of the Irishry against the Saxon 
invaders. Its clergy had almost ruled Ireland at one crisis 
of the Great Civil War ; but under the iron hand of Crom- 
well, and in the events that followed the Revolution of 
1688, they had been subjected to the severest proscription. 
One of the main objects of the Penal Code was, if not to 
extirpate, to reduce to nothingness the priesthood of the 
Irish Catholic Church ; its higher dignitaries were exiled 
and banned, attempts were made to break its organisation 
up ; its ritual and ceremonies were jealously watched and 
discouraged. But the Church lived in the hearts of the 
people, of which it was the comforter in the night of 
affliction ; and notwithstanding these evil efforts its influence 
continued, nay, was extended. In the eighteenth century 
it had done much to improve the morality of the Irish 
peasant ; and though it was still discountenanced and im- 
peded by the law, and its services were performed in wretched 
places of worship, its ecclesiastical system had not been 
destroyed : it had been tolerated for many years, nay, con- 
fessed to be a power in the land. Its hierarchy and 
priesthood were at this time recognised and even favoured 
by British ministers, who had not failed to perceive their 
influence ; and in the absence of their leaders in civil life 
its authority over its flocks was immense. The Irish Catholic 
clergy of this age, however, were very different from their 


successors in our clay, in too many instances mere sacer- 
dotal demagogues. They had been educated for the most 
part in France and Spain, and they were, as a rule, a timid 
and conservative order of men, devoted to their faith, 
taking no part in politics, and attached to the few leading 
Catholic families which vegetated among the landed gentry. 
Some of the regular clergy, however, were bolder spirits, 
and the Church had not forgotten the past. 

Other features of the condition of Ireland at this period 
deserve attention. Irish literature had illustrious names, 
that of Edmund Burke being easily supreme, and many of 
the speeches in the Irish Parliament were remarkable for 
eloquence, knowledge, and thought. Trinity College pos- 
sessed a school of able and liberal-minded men ; Leland 
and Warner were enlightened historians, and as always 
she had distinguished masters of science. But the general 
standard of education in Ireland was low. The leading 
gentry sent their sons to be brought up in England ; the 
few public schools of Ireland were wretchedly bad, mis- 
managed, and usually under worthless heads. Primary 
education hardly existed ; a detestable institution called 
the Charter Schools had failed to win the young of the 
Catholics from their faith ; and if there were a very few 
good Presbyterian schools, Catholic Ireland lay, it may be 
said, in darkness, though miserable " hedge schools " in 
some degree satisfied the passionate Irish craving for 
learning. Three-fourths of the Catholics probably could 
not read or write, and the old Celtic tongue, if dying out 
in Leinster, prevailed in Munster and Connaught and in 
more than half of Ulster. The administration of justice 
in the Supreme Courts was pure, though still harsh and 
severe to the Catholics, but many of the magistracy were 
grossly corrupt ; and in the few inferior Courts the Catholic 
was often unfairly treated. There was nothing like a large 
and regular police force : this allowed the prevalent lawless- 
ness to run riot, and though the highwayman was beginning 
to disappear he was often seen in the neighbourhood of 
the greater towns. Ireland, unlike England, had no Poor 

16 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

Law. Protestant land was not to be taxed for Catholic 
poverty, and the evils of this were beginning to be felt, 
though the worst consequences were reserved for the future. 
As always happens when government is corrupt, jobbery, 
maladministration, and other abuses pervaded every depart- 
ment of the service of the State ; but they were most 
conspicuous, perhaps, in the Established Church. It is 
hardly necessary to add that there was nothing like a sound, 
general, and well-ordered public opinion, there were out- 
bursts of vehemence and fitful passion, but there was no 
steady and national judgment to direct statesmen. Ireland, 
too, on the whole, was centuries behind Great Britain in 
civilisation and progress : not the least remarkable cause 
of this was that she did not possess a really powerful 
middle class. 

The influences of the French Revolution, searching the 
peccant parts of every community, and disturbing vicious 
and corrupt institutions, necessarily affected profoundly an 
ill-governed country, separated by wide distinctions of race 
and faith and by steep and unnatural differences of class, 
in which the mass of the people was kept outside the State, 
and a system of injustice and of exclusive privilege, exalting 
the few and doing wrong to the many, had produced a state 
of society to its very depths diseased. The measures of the 
National Assembly and the doctrines it proclaimed made 
themselves first felt in Presbyterian Ireland, which we have 
seen had various and real grievances, and had been dis- 
affected to the State during many years. Louis XVI. had 
been reduced to the position of a covenanted king ; an 
aristocracy dominant over the land had been shorn of its 
power ; an arrogant Church had lost its possessions, and its 
proud hierarchy had been despoiled ; the evangel of the 
rights of man had been preached, and the equality of 
citizens before the law asserted ; and all this fell in with 
the feelings and sentiments of a community of Scottish 
descent engaged in farming and trade, which had a 
traditional dislike to absolute monarchy, had suffered 
many injuries at the hands of landlords, resented the 


exactions and the tithe of the Established Church and 
the whole system of inequality of class, and had sympathy 
with republican and even socialistic ideas. The Revolution 
was eagerly hailed in many parts of Ulster ; and a move- 
ment, spreading from Belfast and other towns, was set on 
foot to inaugurate an era of change in Ireland. The fall of 
the Bastille was celebrated with loud rejoicings ; addresses 
were sent to the Assembly at Versailles ; a violent Press 
began to make wild utterances ; emblems of sedition 
appeared in the Irish Harp, with a cap of liberty and 
without the Crown ; and ominous signs were seen in 
systematic efforts to enrol again and to arm the old 
Volunteers, under the suggestive name of National Guards. 
The influence of the Revolution extended also to Catholic 
Ireland by slow degrees. The few Catholic nobles and the 
small class of the Catholic landed gentry kept indeed aloof, 
and so did the dignitaries of the Church and the mass of 
the priesthood ; these classes were, as always, torpid and 
afraid to stir, and their sympathies were on the side of 
the falling Monarchy of France. But the trading Catholic 
middle class which had grown up in Ireland and had been 
active and restless for some years, beheld in the Revolution 
the harbinger of hope and liberty ; the Catholic Committee, 
long established in Dublin, in some measure followed the 
example of the North, and Catholic Committees were set 
up in different parts of the country to agitate for Catholic 
claims and rights. The impulse thus given gradually moved 
the inert masses of the Catholic peasantry ; nor indeed 
could these be utterly indifferent to what they heard had 
taken place in France. But the movement as yet was 
feeble and not organised ; it appeared in a fitful resistance, 
in a few counties, to the payment of tithes and even of 
rent, accompanied here and there by agrarian disorders. 

Presbyterian and Catholic Ireland had been at feud for 
ages wherever the populations had been intermixed ; at 
this very period two large factions, the Presbyterian 
Peep of Day Boys and the Catholic Defenders, were 
distracting whole counties by furious discord. But the 


18 « IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

French Revolution had given the two peoples common 
aspirations, objects, and aims, in the fall of an aristocracy 
and a Church, and an instrument was found to bring them 
together. Theobald Wolfe Tone was a young Irish lawyer 
of little learning and not conspicuous parts ; but he was an 
enthusiast and a very able man of action, the master-spirit of 
the rebellious movement that followed. Tone had brooded 
from his teens on the wrongs of Ireland ; he had 
denounced, in a striking and brilliant essay, the whole 
system of Irish government, and especially the abuses 
of the Irish Parliament ; but he threw the blame on 
British rule and power ; he saw the hand of England 
in all that was worst in his country. His purpose 
was to liberate Ireland from the Saxon yoke, and 
to accomplish this it was necessary, he saw, to combine 
all Irishmen against the common enemy, and especially 
to make use of the Irish Catholic millions in the general 
crusade against British oppression. He founded the 
Society of the United Irishmen in Belfast, in the autumn 
of 1 79 1 ; and this rapidly spread over large parts of Ulster. 
Its leaders were all Ulster Protestants at first ; it was an 
organisation on the Jacobin model ; and these preached the 
French Revolutionary faith ; their avowed object, however, 
being to procure a thorough reform of the Irish Parliament, 
to secure for Catholic Ireland admission within the State 
and a participation in political rights, and to unite the 
whole of Ireland to attain these ends. With the exception 
of Tone, a rebel from the first, the chiefs of the movement 
thus professed to have only Constitutional measures in 
view ; but as they contemplated an Irish National 
Assembly, like that of France, but elected by manhood 
suffrage, and for equal districts and the absolute eman- 
cipation, as it was called, of the Catholic Irish, their 
policy was obviously designed to subvert the whole 
system of government, order, and law in Ireland, and 
was not compatible with the British connection. The 
Society, however, and its doctrines, made way in parts of 
Catholic Ireland ; it stimulated the hopes of the Catholic 


leaders ; and it perhaps quickened, in some degree, the 
agrarian movement which stirred the peasantry. Tone 
was appointed Secretary of the Central Catholic Committee ; 
it was a significant expression of the alliance that was being 
formed between Presbyterian and Catholic Ireland. 

Before long, probably at the instigation of Tone, the 
Catholic Committees proposed to assemble a general 
convention of delegates of their faith, in imitation of the 
Volunteers of 1782. Some men of high degree con- 
curred in this project ; but even the boldest spirits 
among the Irish Catholics, though they demanded a 
complete repeal of the remaining Penal Laws, had as yet 
no thought of violent or extreme courses. They had 
placed themselves in the hands of Burke ; and Richard, 
the son of the philosophic statesman, had interviews 
with Pitt and the Irish Government with the object of 
promoting the Catholic claims. Burke had strong sym- 
pathies with the Irish Catholics ; he had been their ablest 
advocate through life. In the struggle with Revolutionary 
France, which he already foresaw, he wished to engage 
Catholicism as a great Conservative force on the side of the 
old order of Europe ; and he urged the British Ministry to 
make an earnest effort to gain Catholic Ireland over by 
ample concessions. In his counsels to the Catholic leaders 
he agreed that the Penal Laws should not be allowed to 
exclude them any longer from the State, and that they 
ought to possess considerable political rights ; but, cha- 
racteristically, he was opposed to a reform in the constitu- 
tion of the Irish Parliament and to giving the Irish Catholic 
a seat in it, though he was willing to admit him to the 
electoral franchise. Pitt had become by this time a close 
ally of Burke ; but the Minister hesitated for many months 
to adopt a policy which would disturb in Ireland a con- 
venient established order of things, and which he knew 
would be vehemently opposed by the men in power 
at the Castle. Pitt, in fact, we have seen, wished to 
maintain Protestant Ascendency as it was in Ireland, 
and the system of Government in existence, until the 


20 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

time had come for a union ; and at this juncture he 
was confirmed in this view, not only by Fitzgibbon, 
whom he greatly trusted, but by a loud expression of 
Protestant Irish opinion still generally opposed to the 
Catholic cause. But when war with the French Republic 
had become imminent and the coalition of Irish Presby- 
terians and Irish Catholics was evidently growing in 
strength and giving alarm, the Minister, perhaps reluc- 
tantly, made up his mind to yield to a great extent to the 
Catholic demands. The Irish Parliament, in the Session of 
1792, had passed an insignificant measure of relief which 
admitted the Irish Catholic to the Bar and removed some 
of the disabilities still imposed on him. In the following 
year, just before the outbreak of the war, a much larger 
measure was brought in, and supported by the whole power 
of the Irish Government. The Bill — here, perhaps, we see 
the hand of Burke — gave the Irish Catholic the right to vote 
at elections, but kept him, as before, shut out from Parlia- 
ment and subject to great and vexatious restrictions, 
which still left Protestant Ascendency supreme ; it admitted 
him to certain offices in the State and to a share of 
political power. 

This measure, dictated by the British Government, was 
probably at heart disliked by the great majority of the men 
sitting in the Irish Parliament. It proposed a complete 
change of policy in the affairs of Ireland ; and obviously 
it should have been made the work of Grattan and of the 
Irish Liberal Party, to be carried into effect in the Irish 
Houses. This, however, in the existing state of the Irish 
Parliament, was not even thought of; the subservient follow- 
ing, which at all times was at the beck of the Irish Govern- 1 
ment, assented to the project, opposed as it was to their 
traditional views and opinions, and the Bill became law 
without difficulty. Fitzgibbon, however, who had received 
the Irish Seals, denounced the measure while he gave it 
his support. His speech was a diatribe against Catholic 
Ireland ; and this attitude of the most powerful man at 
the Castle necessarily provoked Catholic resentment and 


distrust. The Bill was an imperfect, and even a bad, 
half measure — a compromise revealing the want of know- 
ledge of Ireland common to British statesmen ; x and its 
defects and vices were very ably exposed. It was justly 
contended that it gave the Catholic either too much or too 
little ; if he was to possess political power he should be 
made the equal of his Protestant fellow, and dangerous 
agitation would be the result of placing him in his present 
position. Some speakers even insisted that this policy was 
an insidious attempt to increase Irish troubles and to set 
Catholics and Protestants against each other, in order to 
bring about a union — an object of abhorrence at this time 
in the Irish Parliament. But the best argument against 
the Bill was — and this was pressed with great force and 
insight — that while it gave the Irish Catholic a vote, it did 
not allow him to enter Parliament ; the electorate, there- 
fore, was to be swamped by an overwhelming mass of 
ignorant peasants, and the Catholic noble and gentleman 
was not to have a privilege which he might fairly claim. 
This reasoning was so obviously just that we can only 
suppose that Pitt believed that the enfranchisement of the 
Irish Catholic voter would still leave the substance of power 
in Protestant hands — as actually happened during many 
years — and was not alive to the possible dangers. 

The Relief Act of 1793, as it was called, was accompanied 
by measures reducing the Irish Pension List, and lessening 
the number of placemen in the Irish Parliament, a concession 
probably to the views of Grattan. Measures of precaution 
and repression were also passed, a stringent Alien Bill *" 
was enacted, the so-named National Guards were dis- 
banded, care was taken to prevent the importation and the 
use of arms, an attempt was made to enrol a large militia 

1 Irish literature and oratory abounds in complaints of the igno- 
rance of Ireland characteristic of English Ministers and Englishmen 
generally. I quote a single passage from a speech of Fitzgibbon, a 
staunch supporter of British rule in Ireland — " The people of England 
know less of this country than of any other nation in Europe." Swift, 
Burke, Grattan, and O'Connell, repeatedly made the same remark. 

22 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

force, and all but unanimous support was given to the war. 
A lull of more than a year in Ireland followed ; this may, 
perhaps, be ascribed in part to the still doubtful results of 
the struggle abroad, and to the means employed to put 
sedition down, but the policy of conciliation had also its 
effects. Emissaries from France, indeed, began to flit to 
Ireland, two or three United Irish leaders left the country, 
the United Irish movement made progress in Ulster, and 
there was a considerable outburst of Whiteboy crime, 
not wholly, perhaps, without a political object in three or 
four of the counties of the South. But Ireland was, 
in the main, quiescent ; the Catholic Convention was 
suppressed without difficulty by a special law ; and the 
failure of a Reform Bill brought in, in 1794, did not 
arouse Tone and his Society to expressions of wrath, or 
even cause much apparent resentment. Things in Ireland 
as yet seemed tolerably secure ; the conduct of Grattan 
and of his party, indeed, had added greatly to the strength 
of the Irish Government, and had received the deserved 
praise of the British Ministry. Grattan had, no doubt, 
been denounced by the United Irishmen, for their revolu- 
tionary propaganda was odious to him ; but he remained 
the staunch advocate of the Catholic claims, and his 
influence in and out of Parliament had certainly increased. 
He supported the war and the general policy of Pitt; he had 
broken with Fox and his dwindling party ; he had thrown 
in his lot with Burke, and the Whig secession ; and it 
seemed not impossible at this juncture, that the policy 
he advocated would ere long triumph — nay, that he might 
hold a high position in the Irish Government. Should the 
Irish Catholics, as was his earnest hope, be placed on a level 
with the Protestants, through the whole range of political 
rights, a complete reform of the Irish Parliament, the 
second great object of his followers would obviously be a 
mere question of a short time. The narrow Parliamentary 
system of Ireland, it was plain, could not survive the 
fusion into one community of the separate Catholic and 
Protestant peoples. 


An incident, attended with most .untoward results, 
had ere long darkened the prospect of affairs in Ireland. 
Lord Fitzwilliam was one of the great seceding Whigs ; 
he had large estates in Ireland, and knew the country 
well — and he was intimate with Grattan and the chief Irish 
Liberals. He was an indiscreet and passionate man ; but 
in the events that followed he was essentially right, though 
accidentally he put himself in the wrong. It was under- 
stood that he was to be Lord- Lieutenant of Ireland, and 
that a change was to be made in Irish affairs in furtherance 
at least of Grattan's policy ; but, before he was appointed, 
he invited Grattan to assist him in the task of Irish Govern- 
ment, and he appears to have considered that it would be 
necessary to remove several men at the Castle from their 
posts, and especially to dismiss Fitzgibbon, the representa- 
tive of Protestant Ascendency in an extreme sense. This 
imprudence was deeply resented by Pitt, but the dispute, 
sincerely regretted by Burke, was patched up, without clear 
and frank explanation ; and Fitzwilliam was sent to Ireland 
on the understanding that he was not to make the Catholic 
claims a Government measure, but that, if necessary, he 
was to give them support, and that Fitzgibbon was to 
remain in office. He certainly inferred that he might deal 
with the rest of the Irish Administration as he pleased, and 
he had scarcely reached Dublin when he dismissed two or 
three of the Protestant Ascendency chief men in office, and 
flung himself into the arms of Grattan and the Irish Whigs. 
This conduct aroused the wrath of the Castle Junto, and 
gave a sudden and immense impulse to the Catholic move- 
ment in the whole of Ireland. The Catholic Committees 
pressed their demands in determined language ; they were 
supported by the Catholic peers and gentry, who now hoped 
to succeed by constitutional means. The Irish Parliament met 
in the first weeks of 1795 ; Fitzwilliam, as he was directed, 
did not pledge the Government to a measure of Catholic 
relief, but in letter after letter he informed the Cabinet that 
full Catholic emancipation had become a necessity of the 
times, and that if orders to the contrary were not sent, he 

24 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

" would acquiesce with a good grace." No answer was made 
to his despatches for weeks ; at last he received an intima- 
tion from Pitt complaining of the dismissals he had made, 
and this was followed by injunctions from the Duke of 
Portland insisting that no countenance was to be given to 
the Catholic claims, and that the system of government in 
Ireland was in no sense to be changed. This sudden and 
strange turn of policy, there is little doubt, was due to the 
interference of George III., and Fitzgibbon had a consider- 
able part in it. Fitzwilliam was ere long summarily recalled ; 
his indignation is not to be blamed, but he was unwise 
enough to publish confidential letters, which exasperated his 
colleagues and did him much harm. 1 

The successor of Fitzwilliam was Lord Camden, a well- 
meaning but inferior man, and a mere mouthpiece of the 
British Cabinet. Fitzgibbon, raised to the great earldom of 
Clare, became the master-spirit of the Irish Government ; 
he ruled the Castle and well-nigh controlled the Parliament. 
The old system of Protestant Ascendency and oligarchic 
privilege was defiantly renewed in a changed era when 
French ideas and arms were overrunning Europe ; the 
proof of this was seen in the decisive rejection — involving, 
too, the fate of Parliamentary Reform — of a Catholic Relief 
Bill in the Irish Parliament; the majority which, admittedly, 
would have made it law a few weeks before, having 
characteristically turned round at the Government's bid- 
ding. Petty measures of conciliation were next tried ; the 
College of Maynooth was founded for the Catholic priest- 

1 The affair of Lord Fitzwilliam is a most important episode in this 
part of the History of Ireland. The account of Mr. Lecky (" History of 
England in the Eighteenth Century," vii. 32, 97,) is by many degrees the 
best. See also Froude's " English in Ireland," iii. 122, 137, in which all 
parties are condemned and George III. extolled. For an attempt to 
vindicate Pitt and the British Ministry, I may refer to Lord Stanhope's 
Life of Pitt, ii. 91, 97. Lord Rosebery has pleaded on the same side, 
but superficially, and with little apparent knowledge, in his "Pitt," 
pp. 179, 192. The great point made against Fitzwilliam, that his 
Whig colleagues threw him over, is explained by his indiscretions, but 
he was in the main right. 


hood ; Trinity College had, to her honour, opened her 
degrees, before this time, to the Irish Catholic. But after 
the late vote in the Irish Parliament, the hopes that had 
been raised so high were cruelly dashed ; a thrill of passion 
and despair ran through the country, and trouble and 
sorrow fell on Ireland, "creeping," as Grattan said, "like 
mist after the heels of the peasant." The United Irish 
leaders gave up the prospect of success by any but violent 
means, and made preparations to compass their ends by 
armed force. Their organisation had hitherto been a civil 
one only, associations of a Jacobin type, which dissemi- 
nated wild and seditious doctrines, and preached the French 
revolutionary creed, but were open, and not distinctly re- 
bellious. It was now given a military aspect and form, 
arms were collected and bodies of men enrolled ; these levies 
were assembled in different districts, and placed under 
regularly chosen officers ; power was concentrated in a 
few leaders, and efforts were made to seduce the army, 
and especially the newly raised militia. The ramifica- 
tions of an immense conspiracy, held together by secret 
oaths and passwords, extended quickly over whole counties ; 
and to secure immunity from the penalties of the law, 
juries were intimidated and magistrates marked down 
for vengeance. Ere long negotiations were opened with 
the men in power in Paris, and Lord Edward Fitzgerald, 
and Arthur O'Connor, the one a younger brother of 
the Duke of Leinster, the other a distinguished member 
of the Irish Parliament, were sent over to arrange for a 
French descent on Ireland. The heads of the conspiracy 
meanwhile laboured hard to drag Catholic Ireland in their 
wake, and to make use of its teeming masses ; and members 
of the Catholic Committees, or their subordinates, in 
some districts, lent a too willing ear. They found the 
Whiteboy system made to their hands, and agrarian dis- 
order already far spread ; hundreds of peasants were in 
many places swept into the ranks of the United Irishmen 
and sworn "to rise in the cause of Ireland." The move- 
ment, however, was still mainly connected with the land, 

26 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

and exhibited itself in a kind of predial war against middle- 
men, farmers of the tithes and landlords, accompanied 
here and there with atrocious outrages. It was as yet 
chiefly confined to northern and midland counties, and 
had made little way in Munster and Connaught. 

The United Irish movement, as was Tone's object, was 
thus combining Irishmen of opposite creeds and races, 
and was spreading from Ulster through the provinces of 
the South. It was, however, thwarted for a time by another 
movement of altogether a different kind, though this ulti- 
mately gave it an immense impulse. Recent events had, in 
different ways, quickened the savage feuds which we have 
seen had made the Peep of Day Boys and Defenders 
inveterate foes ; and from 1791 onwards, large parts of 
Ulster had been in a very disturbed state. In 1795 the 
quarrel became almost a civil war ; the Peep of Day 
Boys were merged in the Orange Society composed largely 
of Protestants of the lower orders, exasperated at the Relief 
Act of 1793 ; and fights, in one instance rising to a battle, 
took place between the Orangemen and the Defender 
Catholics. Scenes of barbarous disorder and outrage 
followed ; Catholic houses and places of worship were 
wrecked wholesale ; hundreds, nay thousands, of the 
Defenders were driven from their homes, and fled out of 
Ulster. Leaders of the gentry in the North condemned these 
excesses ; but the Orangemen were backed by the great 
majority ; the Government, though not Camden, it is to be 
feared, concurred ; and in many districts Catholics were 
seized and hurried off to man the fleet by unscrupulous 
magistrates. This revival of the discords of race and faith 
in Ireland ran counter to the United Irish policy, which 
aimed at making a league of all Irishmen ; but the leaders 
skilfully made it promote their ends. They announced that 
the object of the Government was to effect the destruction 
of Catholic Ireland by measures as atrocious as those of 
Cromwell ; the hour of massacre and proscription was 
at hand ; and the only hope for the Irish Catholic was to 
hasten to join the United Irish ranks, and to take part in 


the struggle against his tyrants. These appeals, echoed by 
emissaries sent far and wide — some of them, it is said, were 
regular priests — made an extraordinary impression on the 
Catholic masses already terrified by what had occurred in 
Ulster ; and as the streams of the banished Defenders 
spread through the southern provinces, the peasantry in 
many counties were carried away. The Whiteboy move- 
ment was now, so to speak, swallowed up in the United Irish 
and rebellious movement ; the military organisation, formed 
in the North, was transferred to the South ; tens of thousands 
of men were armed with a rude weapon, the pike, and the 
conflict which had been, in the main, agrarian, became a 
conspiracy for an insurrectionary war. Signs, however, of 
the original movement still often appeared in the burnings 
of the houses of obnoxious persons, in murders, the 
slaughter of cattle, and other deeds of blood, and especially 
in cutting down woodland for the making of pikes. 

These scenes were in progress from the close of 1795 
through 1796. The state of the country had become very 
alarming, the power of France was advancing on a flood- 
tide of victory, and a French invasion had been threatened 
for months. The Irish Parliament, largely composed of 
the landed gentry, despoiled and exasperated by the agrarian 
conflict, was in a revengeful and angry mood ; but it is not 
to be blamed for adopting measures of repression and 
against impending danger. The Habeas Corpus Act was 
rightly suspended, and an Insurrection Act was properly 
passed to put Whiteboy and rebellious disorder down. But 
the Government probably deserved censure for refusing to- 
inquire into Orange excesses, and for sanctioning the 
unjustifiable deportations to the fleet; and the Parliament as 
yet, at least, ought not to have granted indemnities to 
magistrates and others guilty of illegal acts. This policy 
was condemned by sensible men of all parties in both 
Houses ; indeed, there is ample proof through these 
troubled years, that the conduct of the Government was 
not approved by numbers of independent and enlightened 
Irishmen. Grattan and his followers made an earnest effort 

28 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

to mitigate the system of coercion the Government had made 
its own, and to strike a blow at the Protestant Ascendency 
and the methods of ruling in which they saw the chief 
causes of existing evils. They exposed the partiality that 
had been shown to the Orangemen, and the wrongs that 
had been done to the Defenders. Grattan, especially, in 
impassioned language, declared that " the poor were 
stricken out of the protection of the law, and the rich out of 
its penalties ; " and they brought forward a large measure of 
Parliamentary Reform and a Catholic Relief Bill that would 
have made the emancipation of the Irish Catholic complete. 
These proposals, however, naturally failed in the Irish 
Parliament in its present temper ; they were derided, in fact, 
by the men at the Castle. Grattan and his party, thinking 
further protests hopeless, ere long followed the example of 
Fox at Westminster, and seceded from an assembly which, 
for the time, turned a deaf ear to the great patriot of 1782. 

The expected descent from France took place in the last 
days of 1796 ; it was, fortunately, unsuccessful, but through 
a mere accident. Tone had left Ireland some months 
before, but he had reached Paris in the beginning of the 
year ; and he was soon in communication with the French 
Directory, who had lent an ear to O'Connor and Lord 
Edward Fitzgerald. His ability and earnestness made an 
impression on the rulers of France, and even on Hoche, fresh 
from his triumphs in La Vendee ; a promise was made that 
a fleet would be sent to Ireland, supported by an 
expeditionary force. Like all rebels in exile, Tone made 
extravagant and far-fetched reports ; but his statement that 
thousands of United Irishmen had been forced into the 
English fleet — he said, indeed, that they formed the greater 
part of the seamen — though grossly exaggerated, contained 
truth ; this had weight especially with the renowned Carnot ; 
it is a significant commentary on the deportations from 
Ulster, and on the subsequent mutiny at the Nore. A large 
French squadron, with 15,000 good troops, set sail from 
Brest in the second week of December. It reached the 
coast of Ireland with little difficulty or loss, and it found the 


south of Minister almost unguarded, and without a single 
British warship at hand. Cork might probably have been 
seized and the adjoining counties overrun, and the results 
must have been very grave ; there would have been an 
armed rising in Ulster, and even in the South. But Hoche, 
the Commander-in-chief, had been parted from his ships, 
and was left isolated in a single frigate ; Grouchy, the second 
in command, showed the want of enterprise he exhibited on 
a greater occasion ; and the French armament, after reaching 
Bantry Bay, was scattered and driven out to sea by a furious 
tempest. The peasantry in the neighbourhood did not stir 
and the Protestant corporations of the chief towns of 
Munster made demonstrations of loyalty doubtless sincere. 
These incidents, however, though made much of at the 
time, were not important, and proved little ; the result 
might have been very different had the French, as Tone 
proposed, made a landing in a port of Ulster, and even had 
boldly attacked Dublin. 

The failure at Bantry did not daunt the United Irish 
leaders ; that corner of Munster had not been prepared, 
and a successful descent had been shown to be possible. 
The condition of affairs throughout Ireland went from bad 
to worse in the spring and summer of 1797. England had 
been left without an ally on the Continent ; she appeared 
bankrupt, her fleets were mutinous ; and there was every 
reason to fear that Irish rebellion would be backed by a 
great French invasion directed perhaps by the warrior who 
had struck Austria down. The United Irish movement, 
whether in the North or the South, had also acquired 
increased strength. A hundred thousand men, it was 
boasted, were enrolled in Ulster, and two hundred thousand 
in the three other provinces, and though these numbers 
were far above the truth, a considerable rebel army partly 
disciplined and drilled, and under selected officers, no doubt 
existed. An insurrectionary government composed of five 
members, like the Directory of France, had been also 
formed ; this held its seat in Dublin, and had absolute 
control over the lesser conspiracies wherever they spread ; 

30 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

its object was to seize the capital, to overpower the Govern- 
ment, and to give the signal for a universal rising, as soon 
as the French should effect a landing. Meanwhile it had 
established a far-reaching system of terror ; innumerable 
outrages were committed in the North and the South ; the 
militia, largely composed of Catholics, had thousands of 
men in the United Irish levies; and justice was paralysed by 
the violence of a Jacobin Press, and by the intimidation 
of all concerned in the administration of the law. The 
Government, led by Lord Clare, stern, calm, and resolute, 
very properly struck hard, and directed the first strokes on 
Ulster. The penal legislation of the last year was put in 
force ; whole counties were subjected to martial law ; 
hundreds of suspected persons were thrown into jail ; the 
incendiary newspapers were suppressed, and the leaders of 
the conspiracy in the North were nearly all arrested. The 
disturbed districts were then disarmed, thousands of 
weapons were seized and their owners severely treated, 
and attempts at resistance were summarily quelled. The 
rebellion was thus nipped in the bud before it was mature ; 
surprise and boldness effected much ; but it was very 
unfortunate that the Government had few regular soldiers 
on hand, and had largely to rely on a yeomanry force, com- 
posed in the main of Orange and Protestant volunteers ; 
and unquestionably many deeds of blood, of lawless excess, 
and of cruelty were done. But order was restored in 
Ulster, and a great peril averted ; and whatever of evil was 
done in the province was a mere trifle compared to that 
which Ireland unhappily was soon to witness elsewhere. 

The pacification of Ulster was complete in the last months 
of 1797. The heads of the conspiracy in the North had 
wished to rise as soon as the Government had begun to act ; 
but the Directory in Dublin refused them aid ; this was the 
beginning of divisions that were rapidly to increase. The 
rebel Government, in fact, had resolved not to strike until the 
French had successfully made a landing ; this was the advice 
of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, the chosen commander of the 
levies of the South, a soldier who knew what war meant ; 


and the great British victory of Camperdown, of which 
Tone was almost an unwilling spectator, had made the 
leaders in the capital cautious. The insurrectionary forces 
having been thus weakened, Clare turned against the con- 
spiracy and its followers in the Southern provinces. With 
Camden and the Irish Council he had been made acquainted 
by spies and informers from the rebel camps of every step 
and design that was being made ; he seems to have deter- 
^ mined to force rebellion to a head, and to paralyse it before 
the foreign enemy could appear. The danger was still 
extremely grave ; England's overtures for peace had been 
rejected ; and Napoleon was at this time on the seaboard 
of France, meditating a descent at the head of the " army 
of England/' It must, too, be borne in mind that, as had 
been the case in Ulster, the Irish Government did not 
possess the means to put disorder down by regular troops, 
and had mainly to rely on irregular levies, hostile in 
race and faith to the people of the South. The deeds that 
were done were, however, atrocious in the extreme ; in the 
first months of 1798 a Reign of Terror prevailed in many 
counties of the South. The passions of a dominant 
minority were let loose against the Irish Catholic multi- 
tudes ; the Orange yeomanry revelled in lawless violence ; 
the peasantry were hunted down without mercy ; towns 
were ravaged by armed bands at free quarters ; torture was 
very generally employed to extract confessions of suspected 
persons, imprisoned by hundreds without a shadow of proof. 
Parts of the South were thus goaded to rise, and these 
cruelties obtained the willing assent of the men at the Castle 
and the Parliament, now a mere instrument of Camden 
and Clare. Ere long a swoop on the rebel Directory 
was made. Most of the leaders were captured, through an 
informer's treachery ; and Lord Edward Fitzgerald — one 
of the famous Geraldine name still held in reverence 
wherever the great fallen house had ruled — was arrested 
and, happily, died of the wounds he received. A feeble 
attempt to make the conspiracy revive was put down by 
other arrests ; and thus the insurrection was deprived of its 

32 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

heads ; while the masses of its adherents, scattered and 
ignorant peasants, surprised, disheartened, and already 
breaking up, were driven, before the time, to take up arms. 

If we reflect what the French Revolution was, and what 
its effects in misruled countries, we may doubt if Ireland 
could have escaped great or even dangerous disturbance 
after 1789. The diseased elements in her social condition 
were such as would certainly be made active by the ideas 
and principles proclaimed in France ; considerable mischief 
probably must have followed. Yet the policy adopted in 
1793, bad and imperfect compromise as it was, did weaken 
the force of the United Irish movement, and made Catholic 
Ireland tranquil for a time ; and had Grattan's measures of 
conciliation been boldly carried out the worst evils that were 
seen afterwards might never have occurred. It is impossible 
to assert what would have happened had Fitzwilliam not 
been unjustly recalled ; it is evident, however, that from the 
moment that Protestant Ascendency and the old system of 
Irish Government was set up again, the prospect for the 
country became rapidly worse. When rebellious movements 
were growing to a head, much allowance must be made for 
the Irish Government ; the danger was real and very 
grave, especially in 1796-8, and in the presence of French 
invasion at hand ; and the Government had instruments 
either questionable or bad. But it erred greatly in sup- 
porting the Orange movement, and in exasperating the whole 
of discontented Ireland ; but for this the Irish Catholics 
would hardly have turned to rebellion. The resolution and 
capacity of Clare deserve praise ; but the severities of which 
he approved in the North, and the atrocities to which he 
gave a free rein in the South, have indisputably thrown a 
shadow on his name. His policy was for the moment suc- 
cessful, but it led to consequences felt even now ; and we 
must not forget that it was steadily condemned, not only by 
many distinguished Irishmen, but by Cornwallis and 
Abercromby, eminent soldiers, who declared that it was un- 
necessary and could not be justified. The conduct of Pitt 
and the British Ministry was often feeble, and even tortuous, 


revealing English ignorance of Irish affairs ; but they were 
hardly to blame for the deeds of violence that were done. 
For the rest the period shows how easily led were the weak 
masses of Catholic Ireland, and how Ireland, as usual, was 
divided ; its most distinctive feature, perhaps, is that it 
proves what ill the French Revolution wrought in a dis- 
tracted and ill-governed country. 



Outbreak of the Rebellion of 1798 — It is at once put down in Kildare 
and the adjoining counties — It assumes formidable proportions in 
Wexford — Father John Murphy — Oulart and Enniscorthy — The 
town of Wexford occupied — Battles of New Ross and Arklow — 
Vinegar Hill stormed — End of the Rebellion in Wexford — Its dregs 
linger in Wicklow and other counties — Partial rising in Ulster easily 
put down — Ulster quiescent and why — Munster and Connaught 
hardly stir — Lord Camden replaced by Lord Cornwallis — Policy of 
Cornwallis — The descent of Humbert — Death of Wolfe Tone — 
Complete collapse of the Rebellion — Pitt proposes the Union — 
His policy and conduct — A proposal for a Union fails in the Irish 
Parliament in 1799 — Means employed to bring the Union about — 
Provisions of the Act of Union — Pitt resigns office — Review of his 
conduct — Position of Ireland in the Imperial Parliament. 

The rising in Ulster had been prevented ; things in the 
South had been brought to a crisis ; the rebel Directory had 
been arrested ; the rebel army was a flock without shepherds, 
spread in little knots and bands over parts of the country. 
An armed rising, nevertheless, took place ; and the Govern- 
ment, though in no sense surprised, had not adequate means 
to resist a well-combined effort. There were not 15,000 
British troops in Ireland ; these were mainly English, 
Scottish, and Welsh militia, mostly employed as garrisons of 
the large towns ; the Irish militia were, perhaps, 18,000 
strong, but numbers of these were distrusted Catholics ; and 
the men at the Castle had, as before, to rely chiefly on the 
irregular yeomanry volunteer levies, nearly all Protestants 
burning with Orange passions. The insurrection followed, 



to some extent, the plan that had been arranged by its 
military heads ; but it was feeble, unorganised, and without 
direction. The mails were stopped in different parts of the 
country, on the night of the 23rd of May, 1798 ; fires 
blazed ominously from the Wicklow and Dublin hills ; and 
on the morning of the 24th gathering bands of peasants, 
with arms of all kinds, and in loose masses, rage in the 
adjoining county of Kildare, the home of the Geraldine 
House of Leinster. Other bands appeared in the counties 
of Dublin and Meath ; and the rising spread into Carlow 
and the Queen's County, the object being to march on the 
capital, to arouse the armed rebellion lurking within, and to 
overthrow the Government in its seat. It is unnecessary to 
dwell on the desultory combats that followed ; they were 
scarcely worthy of the name of skirmishes. The rebels 
gained some partial successes ; a small body of militia was 
destroyed at a place called Prosperous, mainly owing to the 
treachery of one of the officers ; a few country seats and 
villages were seized and harried. But the insurrection never 
approached Dublin ; rude husbandmen could not hold the 
field against forces with any kind of discipline ; they were 
scattered or slaughtered in rapid succession ; atrocious deeds 
were done on both sides ; the massacre at Prosperous had its 
counterparts in massacres near Carlow, and on the Curragh 
of Kildare ; and a general officer was loudly condemned, 
who uttered even a word of clemency. The state of affairs 
in Dublin was more dangerous. Thousands of men had 
secretly joined the United Irish ranks, and large stores of 
fire-arms and pikes had been collected ; there was a well- 
grounded fear of a treacherous and widespread outbreak, 
accompanied by excesses of horrible crime. But the city 
was placed under martial law ; the garrison was in con- 
siderable force ; and the loyal citizens met the emergency 
with most praiseworthy courage. They formed themselves 
into a great and well-armed police force, which effectually 
kept the cowed rebels down. I 

1 A good and tolerably impartial account of the Rebellion of 1798 
will be found in Gordon's History. The reader should be warned 

36 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

The struggle, as had been foreseen, had assumed the 
character of a religious war from the first, in mockery, as it 
were, of United Irish dreams, for Protestant Ascendency 
ranged its adherents on the side of the Government, and 
the United Irishmen in the South were nearly all Catholics. 
There were large exceptions, however, to a general rule ; the 
Catholic militia, led for the most part by Protestant officers, 
had done well, and Catholic nobles and gentlemen and 
heads of the Church had given proof of sincere, nay, 
devoted loyalty. The rising, however, had been so speedily 
quelled, that order, it was thought for some days, would 
soon be restored. Rebellion, however, suddenly flamed out 
wildly in a region where, perhaps, it was not much expected. 
The counties of Wicklow and Wexford, in the south-east of 
Leinster, form one of the loveliest parts of Ireland ; the 
first is largely a tract of hills and defiles, the home in the 
past of Celtic mountaineers ; the second is a country of 
fertile plains, peopled by a race of British, Flemish, and 
Welsh descent ; the gentry, in both, were, for the most part, 
resident, the peasantry, as a rule, were prosperous. But the 
evil teaching of the United Irish leaders had been especially 
active throughout this district ; the notion was spread far 
and near that an Orange invasion would be made from the 
not distant capital ; the population became Defenders and 
took the United Irish oath in thousands, and in this way as 
in other counties, it was lured into the ranks of rebellion 
with little knowledge of what was to happen. It should be 
added that, as in the rest of the South of Ireland, the owners 
of the land were nearly all Protestants, the occupiers nearly 
all Catholics ; that a few of the gentry were men of extreme 
liberal views and some priests disaffected at heart, and that 
several of the popular leaders had not forgotten the tradi- 

against the partisan narratives of Musgrave and Hay. The memoirs 
of Miles Byrne and Holt are very interesting ; and the Camden, Corn- 
wallis and Castlereagh Correspondence should be studied. Mr. Lecky's 
chapters are, as usual, excellent. Mr. Froude has described the military 
events very well, but he has written in the spirit of the mediaeval 
statutes, which declared that the killing of an Irishman was not a crime. 


tions of the old tribal life of Wicklow, of the days when 
the clans called its valleys their own, of the deeds of blood 
which Cromwell had done at Wexford. Elements of 
trouble and disturbance, in a word, abounded ; and, 
especially after the descent of the French at Bantry Bay, 
these rapidly quickened and became manifest. The look of 
the peasantry grew dark and sullen, vague rumours of a rising 
at hand spread, and pikes were secretly fabricated in large 
quantities. An outbreak, however, would not have, perhaps, 
occurred had not the methods adopted to make rebellion 
show itself been employed with extreme and reckless 
severity. The yeomanry and militia devastated villages and 
towns, Catholic places of worship were ruthlessly burned, 
and more than ordinary cruelty was committed, nay, reduced 
into a regular system, in order to compel the surrender of 
arms, and in tracking out and capturing suspected persons. 
Two modes of torture were very generally in use, wretches 
were half-hanged to enforce confessions, and caps smeared 
with melting pitch were in numberless cases pressed down 
on the heads of " croppies," as the sufferers were called. 

These excesses maddened the already rebellious peasantry, 
the insurrection burst forth in Wexford, unfortunately it 
produced a real leader. Father John Murphy was a dis- 
affected priest, the destruction of his chapel made him vow 
vengeance ; he summoned the country around his parish to 
arms by the light of a beacon fired from a neighbouring 
hill. He was soon joined by tumultuous swarms of pike- 
men and by bodies of farmers, with long duck guns, 
practised marksmen from boyhood in shooting wild fowl ; 
he boldly raised the standard of revolt, the name of the 
"Irish Republic" revealing his French sympathies. In a 
skirmish on the side of a hill called Oulart, a loyalist detach- 
ment which fell on with imprudent confidence was over- 
powered and slain almost to a man : this became the signal 
of a widespread rising, and Father John, drawing other 
priests in his wake and sweeping in recruits from all sides 
in hundreds, was soon at the head of a large insurrectionary 
force. He was a true ruler of men, almost a born general ; 

38 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

he made for Enniscorthy, a town on the Slaney, and a point 
of importance commanding the river, he attacked the 
garrison in the place with real military skill, making a 
flanking movement with vigour and effect. A fierce and 
well-contested encounter followed, the long fowling-piece 
and the pike proved deadly weapons ; the assailants covered 
themselves with the fire of burning houses, and ultimately 
the defenders abandoned the town, which decked itself out 
in the rebel colours of green. Father John next placed a 
part of his victorious levies in a camp on the adjoining 
eminence of Vinegar Hill, and with the rest, swollen to 
thousands of men, he marched rapidly to a range called the 
Three Rocks overlooking the town of Wexford at a little 
distance. The terror that prevailed in Wexford was intense, 
the Protestant townsmen expected a wholesale massacre and 
a deputation was sent to the rebel leaguers to treat. Ere long 
a small party of militia, which had approached the Three 
Rocks, was annihilated by the rebels on the spot, and a few 
hundred armed men who had got into Wexford and had 
tried to support the loyalist movement were compelled to 
leave the town in precipitate flight. The insurgents, by this 
time fully 16,000 strong, streamed wildly into the defenceless 
place — a multitudinous chaos brandishing arms of all kinds, 
and accompanied by troops of exulting women bedizened 
with the spoils of plundered country seats. 

The deeds of blood were not perpetrated that were feared 
at Wexford ; the town was placed under a kind of govern- 
ment, and a Catholic bishop and his clergy did much to 
appease the passions of the armed Catholic masses. A 
strange and half-tragic comedy was ere long witnessed ; to 
propitiate the victors many Protestants were " made 
Christians" by baptisms after the Roman fashion, the rebels 
brought by these means to clemency by their priests, rejoiced 
with superstitious glee that " the heretics had been saved." 
Meanwhile the whole county had risen up in arms, the 
insurrection raging from the sea to the Barrow ; the Peter 
the Hermit of the Irish Crusade found himself at the head 
of a wild savage host numbering from 40,000 to 50,000 men. 


The rebels, strange to say, elected a Protestant, Bagenal 
Harvey, a gentlemen with United Irish views, to command 
" the Army of the People " in chief ; two or three more of the 
landed gentry threw in their lot with them. Their real 
trust, however, was in their beloved Father John and in 
Philip Roche, another remarkable priest, and these leaders 
had the advice of more than one old soldier who had seen 
war in the Irish Brigade. An attempt to enforce order and 
discipline was made, a regular plan of operations was 
formed that showed considerable insight and skill. The 
rebel army was divided into three masses, the central 
column was to advance into the north of the county, and 
to give aid to an expected rising in Wicklow, the left column 
was to master the Barrow, and to overrun the counties to 
the west of the river, which, it was thought, were eager to 
revolt ; the right column was to march by the sea coast on 
the capital. The movement of the central column was 
stopped by a small yeomanry and militia force ; the rebels 
were driven from the town of Newtown Barry back upon 
Vinegar Hill. But the effort of the left column was formid- 
able in the extreme, and led to what may really be called a 
battle fought out, on both sides, with heroic constancy. 
The rebels, from 16,000 to 18,000 strong, advanced on the 
morning of the 5th of June against the garrison of the little 
town of New Ross, composed of about 1,500 men, some of 
these being regular troops, supported by a battery of field 
guns. The assailants drove in the first loyalist ranks by 
forcing against them herds of bullocks ; they then poured into 
the narrow streets of New Ross, covered, as at Enniscorthy, 
by the flames of houses they had fired. The fight within 
the pent-in spaces became desperate, the artillery in vain 
swept hundreds down, the best horsemen of England 
recoiled, beaten, before the serried forest of pikes, or fell 
under the deadly hail of concealed sharpshooters. The 
weight of overwhelming numbers at last told, part of the 
loyalist force was driven across the Barrow, and had the 
rebel army made a combined effort it would have occupied 
New Ross and seized the great bridge leading into the 

4Q IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

adjoining County Kilkenny, the object of the insurgent 
leaders. But the irregular masses broke up, rushing wildly 
here and there ; Johnston, the able chief of the half-defeated 
garrison, rallied his men with admirable coolness and skill ; 
the town, as evening fell, was again in his hands. A party 
of the baffled insurgents disgraced their cause by a massacre 
of prisoners at a farmhouse known as Scullabogue, a foul 
parody, it has been thought, of the September massacres ; it 
is right to add that Bagenal Harvey severely condemned the 

We turn to the fortunes of the right column, under the 
command of the redoubtable Father John. This was from 
20,000 to 25,000 strong, but the men were composed of 
the latest levies, and were, for the most part, miserably 
armed, and the bodies of sharpshooters seem to have 
been at New Ross. An advanced detachment, however, 
of the rebel army surprised and cut to pieces a loyalist 
party not far from Gorey, on the 5th of June. The officer 
in command was slain ; it has been said that if the 
insurgents had pressed forward and seized Arklow, on 
the coast road to Dublin, the capital must have fallen 
into their hands. But Father John had a true military 
eye ; he probably had good reason to pause, and an 
eye-witness, afterwards a brilliant soldier of France, has 
declared that he could not have made the march. 1 Be 
this as it may, the rebels had reached the outskirts of 
Arklow by the afternoon of the 9th of June ; they attacked 
the defenders of the town in three great masses, endeavour- 
ing to turn the enemy on both flanks. The loyalists were 
only 1,600 strong, as usual a militia and yeomanry force, 
but a skilful officer was fortunately at their head. General 
Needham had placed them in a strong position behind 
fences and ditches hastily turned into lines. The attack 
was intrepid and pressed fiercely home. Needham thought 
for a moment of falling back, a resolve that might have 
had the worst results ; but the fire of the assailants was 
desultory and without aim ; the artillery of the defence 
1 "Memoirs of Miles Byrne," i. p. 114. 


told with great effect on the tumultuous masses as they 
surged forward ; it was impossible to storm the improvised 
breastworks. The rebels sullenly retreated as night fell ; 
their ammunition was all but spent ; thousands disbanded 
in a flight that became precipitate. A curious incident had 
smitten the superstitious host with panic ; one of their 
priests had persuaded them that true Catholics need have 
no fear of heretic guns ; and he had escaped scatheless, 
hitherto, in the deadliest fights. He rushed into the fray 
at Arklow raising a green flag, bearing the words, " Death 
or Liberty," on a white cross ; he was blown to atoms at 
the cannon's mouth ; the broken spell terrified his dis- 
enchanted followers. 

The dissolving ranks of the right column drifted partly 
to Wexford, partly into the County Wicklow. The rebellion 
by this time had lasted three weeks ; not a soldier had been 
despatched from England, probably owing to apprehension 
of a descent from the Channel ; the war had been a 
murderous strife of Irishmen, marked on both sides by 
detestable deeds, but giving proof of the inborn bravery 
of the race. The greatest alarm had prevailed in Dublin, 
when Father John had drawn near Arklow ; some fine 
ladies and gentlemen fled ; but at last 14,000 or 15,000 
troops were landed ; the issue could then be no longer 
doubtful. Lake, renowned afterwards for his deeds in 
India, but not worthy of praise in the Irish rebellion, 
marched for the great encampment on Vinegar Hill, where 
scenes of horror had been too common, the spirit of 
Jacobinism and of religious fury having united as it were 
to commit atrocious crimes, and scores of Protestants 
having been done to death after mock trials, like those 
of Fouquier Tinville. Five armed columns were directed 
against the insurgent leaguers ; they encountered a stern 
but hopeless resistance ; but the rebel army would have 
been utterly destroyed had not one of the columns been 
backward, and thousands of fugitives escaped through the 
space it left open, still known as Needham's Gap in the 
traditions of the place. Lake now made for Wexford, the 

42 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

only remaining spot where the dying rebellion had even 
a show of strength. The insurgents who had been defeated 
at New Ross, had deprived Bagenal Harvey of his command, 
and had placed Father Philip Roche in his stead. Roche 
had assembled a considerable force at the Three Rocks, 
and he had attacked Moore, the future chief of Corunna, 
with no ordinary vigour and skill, a body of rebels from 
Wexford giving him aid. Moore, however, had driven the 
assailants back, and in the frenzy of terror and wrath that 
ensued, a massacre of Protestants at last took place in the 
town which, hitherto, had scarcely been stained with blood. 
The rebels now endeavoured to parley with Moore, but 
Lake turned a deaf ear to any terms. Roche was brutally 
killed in an attempt to treat ; and the remains of his force, 
seeing that they must do or die, effected their escape across 
the Barrow with the still indomitable Father John at their 
head. The victorious army occupied Wexford ; Bagenal 
Harvey, and the men of his order who had followed his 
leading, were rightly condemned ; but we may regret that 
the heads of the rebel government who had saved valuable 
lives were not spared. Lake might have learned a lesson 
from Hoche in La Vendee. 

The rebellion was now almost a thing of the past ; but 
Father John made good his way into the plains of 
Kilkenny. He tried to arouse a colliery district ; his 
motley force was routed and dispersed ; his own fate is 
still, perhaps, a mystery. The dregs of the rising stirred 
for many months in the fastnesses and the glens of 
Wicklow, which had been kept down not without trouble. 
Holt, a farmer, exasperated by cruel wrongs, successfully 
maintained a kind of guerilla war with armed peasants 
and part of the levies of Wexford. This wild region, indeed, 
was not completely pacified until a great military road 
was made through it, as in the case of the Highlands 
after 1745. Had a French army seconded the rebellion, 
or had this been, in any sense, general, the State would 
have been in the gravest peril ; Ireland, for a time, might 
have been lost to the Empire. But France did not send 


a man at the crisis of events ; the rising was confined to 
a small part of Leinster ; nothing like the universal effort 
was made on which the United Irish leaders founded their 
hopes. Petty outbreaks, indeed, occurred in Ulster, but 
they were put down without the least difficulty ; the 
province in which rebellion was first hatched and which 
had been terribly disturbed for two years before, was all 
but quiescent in 1798, and, in a short time, was wholly at 
rest. This was partly due to the presence of a powerful 
N^^armed force, partly to increasing discord between the 
rebel chiefs in Belfast and those in Dublin, partly to 
growing distrust of French policy, but principally to the 
character which the struggle in the South assumed. It 
was at once perceived to be a war of religion, attended 
with barbarous deeds of blood ; the Presbyterians of the 
North, misled as they might be by United Irish ideas and 
dreams, had no notion that Protestant Ireland was to be 
made the victim of Popish peasants and priests ; they were 
incensed by tales like those of Prosperous and Scullabogue ; 
and as the old animosities of faith quickened, they turned 
away from rebellion in disgust. As for Munster, there were 
garrisons in the large towns ; the country districts hardly 
made a sign, and insignificant disorders were easily quelled. 
The United Irish faith had never made much way in 
Connaught, and the province was almost everywhere 
tranquil ; indeed in this, as has happened in other instances, 
it was less in backward and poor regions than in those 
which were more rich and prosperous that rebellious 
movements had any real power. 

Camden meanwhile had given place to Lord Cornwallis, 
who had refused to command the army in Ireland the year 
before, on account of what was being done by the men at 
the Castle, but who became Lord- Lieutenant at the express 
request of Pitt. Cornwallis was a good if an unfortunate 
soldier, a skilful diplomatist, in some sense a statesman ; 
but like most Englishmen, he did not know Ireland. He 
was ready, also, like many Englishmen, to relieve England 
from blame in Irish affairs, and to throw it upon a single 

44 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

class in Ireland ; and he had a fixed idea that a great 
measure of Catholic relief would be a panacea for the ills 
of centuries. The scenes that met him on his arrival, and 
for weeks afterwards, naturally filled a humane disposition 
with aversion and horror. The rebellion had been quenched 
in ashes and blood ; but a white terror reigned in many 
parts of the South ; the atrocities, which had largely pro- 
voked the rising, continued in full swing without scruple 
or pity ; the whippings, the torturings, the burnings went 
on ; the yeomanry especially revelled in licence and in 
outrages on defenceless women. Cornwallis was justly 
incensed, and did much to put these revolting excesses 
down ; he was earnestly supported, it should be observed, 
by Clare ; the lordly lion, when it had done what it wanted, 
did not care to let the jackals run riot. But Cornwallis was 
in error when he charged the Irish landed gentry with guilt 
of this kind ; in hundreds of instances they denounced and 
tried to put a stop to these crimes ; these in fact were 
chiefly the work of subordinate officers, and of functionaries 
of the Castle Junto ; and nothing is more certain than 
that all that was worst in the loyalist vengeance of 1798 
was condemned by the best and the leading men of 
Protestant Ireland. Nor is the Irish Parliament to be 
visited with unreserved censure, because, at a crisis of grave 
peril, it gave its sanction to the severest measures, and even 
protected men in office by Acts of Indemnity not to be 
justified in other times. Deeds of lawless violence might 
be excused when a rebel army was forty miles from Dublin, 
and succour from England was not forthcoming — facts 
conveniently omitted by English writers — nor can it be 
forgotten that there were special reasons to irritate and 
offend the Irish Parliament. The United Irish leaders had 
caused maps of the old confiscations to be made, and had 
offered these lands to the peasantry as a spoil. 

It is to the credit of Cornwallis that only four leaders of 
the rebel conspiracy suffered death, after regular trials and 
convictions ; and he extended an amnesty to peasants who 
gave up their arms, and pledged themselves to submit to the 


Government. Many leaders, however, were still in confine- 
ment, and thousands of prisoners had been taken in the 
field ; it was being discussed how these were to be treated, 
when intelligence arrived of a French landing. Napoleon 
had been for months the foremost man in France ; cha- 
racteristically he kept aloof from Irish rebellion, and instead 
of attempting a descent on England, he took an invading 
army to Egypt, and the fleet that was destroyed at the Nile. 
The Directory, however, fitted little expeditions out ; one 
of these successfully reached the Coast of Mayo, but weeks 
after the rebellion had collapsed. The prospect of a rising 
was hopeless, for this part of Connaught had hardly stirred ; 
but the French General, Humbert, a daring and able soldier, 
who had disembarked some 1,100 men, veterans of the 
armies of Italy and the Rhine, showed what could be done 
by real soldiers against armed levies debauched by evil 
deeds of licence. He surprised his enemy by a rapid 
movement, along a road that had been deemed impassable ; 
deceived him by a well-planned feint, and routed Lake 
and a militia force twofold at least in numbers, its igno- 
minious flight being still known as the Race of Castlebar. 
Finding no support in the country, however, Humbert 
made by a forced march for Sligo and the North, but 
he was ultimately compelled to lay down his arms, Lake 
and Cornwallis having surrounded him in overwhelming 
strength. Another expedition was only notable for the 
capture of Theobald Wolfe Tone, the brain and soul of 
the Rebellion of 1798. Tone had lost hope when he set 
sail for Ireland ; but he wished to strike a blow in what 
he thought her quarrel, and he fought desperately in a 
murderous engagement at sea. The proceedings at his trial 
were remarkable for a conflict between a military court and 
one of the established tribunals of the State ; but he solved 
the difficulty," happily perhaps, by suicide. Tone is the 
only one of the Irish rebel chiefs entitled to more than the 
passing notice of history. He was an enthusiast, but had 
insight, energy, and resource; he had real influence over 
very able men ; he staked everything in a cause for him 

46 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

sacred, apparently without a thought of self ; he was an 
enemy of England, but an open and brave enemy. He is 
not to be judged by passages in a careless diary, selected to 
hold him up to contempt ; his dying words, as they may 
be called, were manly, pathetic, and full of real dignity. 

Danger from the rebellion had now passed away, and 
Ireland was occupied by more than 100,000 armed men. 
But agrarian disturbances followed civil war ; the struggle 
in the field was replaced by Whiteboy outrages — one of 
the worst features of the movements of 1796-8 reappeared 
in many of the southern counties. Cornwallis, however, 
went on steadily and honourably with the good work of 
clemency. Some of the prisoners in his power were trans- 
ported, others were hired out to serve in the Prussian army, 
but the immense majority were allowed to return to their 
homes. The captive United Irish leaders remained; they 
took a step that helped the Lord-Lieutenant's policy, and 
promised, that, should their lives be spared, a full disclosure 
of the conspiracy would be made. Their confession was a 
skilful, but a misleading document ; it told the truth, but far 
from the whole truth ; they incurred the displeasure of the 
Government, and they were not released until after the 
Peace of Amiens, when nearly all sought a refuge in 
France. Arthur O'Connor and Thomas Addis Emmett, 
a brother of a future ill-fated rebel, were the most dis- 
tinguished of these men; and some attained eminence in 
foreign lands, as brilliant adventurers, soldiers, and men of 
the gown. They had not, however, very remarkable parts, 
and if it does not wholly refuse them sympathy, history 
must severely condemn their conduct. They were carried 
away by the wild illusions the French Revolution spread 
through Europe ; they had, perhaps at first, constitutional 
ends in view ; the wrongs of their country were grievous 
and many. But they invited a foreign invasion to its 
shores ; they invented the wicked myth of a general Catho- 
lic massacre ; they made use of Whiteboyism to further 
rebellion ; they are responsible for much that was worst in 
the rising of 1798. If not wholly, too, it was partly due to 


them, that the evil divisions of race and faith in the Irish 
community were deepened and widened, and that class was 
cruelly set against class ; above all, that the noble ideal of 
Grattan, an Ireland made a real and contented nation, by 
the union of its peoples, under an equal law, through mode- 
rate, gradual, and just reforms, never perhaps probable, was 
made impossible. 

In this condition of Ireland, Pitt began to make arrange- 
ments to bring about the Union. We may reject an 
assertion, plausibly made, and not even without authority, 
that the Minister let rebellion run its course in Ireland, 
and purposely delayed in putting it down, in order to ex- 
asperate a savage war of class ; he was not only incapable 
of conduct of this kind, but the dates of his correspondence 
refute the calumny. But Pitt did not hesitate to take 
advantage of the existing state of the distracted country 
to promote a measure which he had had long at heart, and 
which, we have said, had been in the minds of leading 
English statesmen since 1782. Nor is he in the slightest 
degree to be blamed ; an Irish Union had been one of the 
great works of Cromwell ; it had been advocated by a series 
of able thinkers, from Petty and Montesquieu, to the author 
of the " Wealth of Nations " ; it would have been joyfully 
accepted by the Irish Parliament as early as 1707 ; in the 
existing state of the world, and of the British Empire, the 
Constitution of 1782 had become a source of grave danger 
and trouble : a union, indeed, was perhaps a necessity of 
State. Pitt, however, had hitherto let things alone ; for the 
Irish Parliament, he knew well, clung to the settlement 
of 1782, was jealous of its independence and power, and, 
certainly until the late rebellion would have rejected with 
scorn the thought of a union, and the Irish community 
would have concurred. But the opportunity appeared to 
have come ; Ireland was in the hands of a great army ; 
the influence of the Irish Parliament had declined, and its 
severities had turned thousands against it ; the deep divisions 
of class had greatly weakened the country ; Protestant Ireland 
was alarmed, angry, thinking of change, and this was espe- 

48 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

cially the case with the landed gentry, whose Church and 
whose lands had been placed in peril. Catholic Ireland 
vWas in dread that it would be visited with the consequences 
of the late rising — perhaps with the revival of the Penal 
Code ; and parts of it looked wistfully to England for relief. 
In these circumstances, Pitt thought the Union could be 
accomplished without probably much difficulty, and had 
he strenuously and boldly carried out the policy which he 
wished to make an essential part of the measure, without 
deviating into more than doubtful courses, and lending 
himself to questionable acts, he would have deserved the 
almost unqualified praise of history. 

The Union, it was the intention of Pitt, was to be 
accompanied by a large measure of Catholic Emancipa- 
tion in the fullest sense ; by a provision for the Irish Catholic 
priesthood ; and by the commutation of the tithe of the 
Established Church. This may have been a grand, but was 
not an original policy, as Macaulay and others have asserted ; 
it had been advocated by Grattan for many years, and by 
the best men in the Irish Parliament. As for Catholic 
Emancipation, Pitt, at this time, was aware that the King 
was strongly opposed to it, and he gave the question up, at 
least for the present, having learned from Clare that the 
Irish Parliament would not consent to make it a part of the 
Union. The Union was to be what was called a Protestant 
Union ; Pitt let this be known to the supposed leaders of 
Catholic Ireland, great peers and commoners, but with a 
; broad hint that a Union would bring better things, and 
- /they assented to a Union on these conditions. Pitt, 
/ however, left the commutation of the tithes open ; he 
was thought to be pledged on this subject, and as to an 
endowment for the Irish Catholic clergy, we find Cornwallis 
distinctly offering this in the first days of 1799, to the 
extreme satisfaction of the dignitaries of the Church, though 
the offer was, perhaps, withheld from the British Govern- 
ment. Pitt took other means to promote his scheme ; 
application was made to the leading boroughmongers, 
who really all but controlled the Irish Parliament ; these 



were not reluctant if suitable terms were made ; able 
pamphlets appeared in support of a Union, and a Press 
was subsidised with the same object. The prospect of the 
measure seemed hopeful at the close of 1798 ; but the 
Minister, never well informed on Irish affairs, did not 
understand the forces being arrayed against him. Pro- 
testant Ireland, for the present, rejected the thought of a 
Union ; Dublin and the Irish Bar were especially adverse. 
And though Catholic Ireland seemed to have been won, 
and the great mass of it was quiescent and made no sign, 
an active and earnest party among the Irish Catholics, that 
which had bestirred itself in 1792-3, unreservedly con- 
demned the intended project. These men perceived that 
Catholic Ireland would probably, in course of time, pre- 
dominate in the Irish Parliament ; they reasoned, too, as the 
event proved, that Catholic Emancipation was not likely to 
be easily carried in an Imperial Parliament ; they threw 
their whole weight against a Union. They made it a watch- 
word that the Penal Code was preferable with an Irish 
Parliament to their existing condition under a Legislature 
supreme at Westminster. 

This state of opinion was to become manifest in the 
Irish Parliament, with marked significance. The Speech 
from the Throne as the Session opened in January, 1799, 
referred cautiously to a Union ; but an amendment to the 
Address — the Government had the support of Castlereagh, 
lately made Chief Secretary, because, " though an Irish- 
man he was unlike an Irishman " — was defeated by a 
majority of one only, and the Government was beaten by a 
majority of five on the Report of the Address. If we bear 
in mind that the Irish House of Commons almost always 
followed the lead of the Castle — and this had especially 
been the case of late — this expression of opinion was 
striking in the extreme, and though the Government ob- 
tained a majority in the Irish House of Lords, where Clare 
ruled a submissive assembly, the project was not pressed 
during the rest of the Session. Pitt, however, was almost 
the dictator of the British House of Commons ; his pur- 



50 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

pose was fixed to carry out his policy, and he was supported 
by an overwhelming majority of votes. He moved Reso- 
lutions for a Union ; his speech, one of the very few he 
revised, is a good specimen of Parliamentary art, but it was 
deficient in insight and mature knowledge, and his con- 
fident predictions have been largely falsified. Pitt dex- 
terously soothed the pride of the Irish Parliament, but he 
declared that the settlement of 1782 was not meant to be 
final ; he pointed out how the British and Irish Parlia- 
ments had disagreed on important subjects ; he clearly 
showed how two legislatures, all but coequal in rights, 
might dangerously clash, and that with the worst results, 
especially at the existing time of a great war and trouble. 
He abstained from committing himself on the Irish Catholic 
claims, but he skilfully dangled out hopes ; were a Union to j 
take place the Irish Catholic would be in a better position 
in an Imperial than he was in an Irish Parliament. What 
might not be expected from impartial British justice ? The 
speaker, however, did not perceive how dangerous it might 
be to the State and its interests to trifle with a momentous 1 
question, and though he glanced at " the distracted condi- 1 
tion of Ireland," he showed that he in no sense understood j 
how grave and deep-seated were her political and social ills. j 
For the rest a Union, he asserted, would increase the pros- 
perity of Ireland in an extraordinary way, would bring 
English capital into an impoverished land, and large com-i 
mercial and financial benefits; especially it would promote 
" tranquillity and heal dissension." The Minister was) 
answered in the Irish House of Commons by Foster, the; 
Speaker, a singularly able man, and who, unlike Pitt, ; 
thoroughly knew Ireland. He dwelt on the fact that the! 
British and Irish Parliaments had not once been in dan-i 
gerous and lasting conflict. He took his stand on the 
Constitution of 1782 ; he indignantly asked if a great 
national compact was to be set at naught for the sake of a 
plausible theory. Foster, too, scornfully, and as the event- 
proved, truly denied that a Union would make Ireland 
rapidly flourish ; it would certainly increase her financial 


burdens ; it would probably destroy her young manufac- 
tures. And what were fictitious or imaginary hopes com- 

I pared to the loss of independence, the certain increase of 
absenteeism on an immense scale, and the probable degra- 

i dation of the Irish landed gentry ? The Speaker, however, 
was greatly embarrassed on one point : Foster was one of 
the school of Flood, opposed to the Irish Catholic cause, 
and he did not countenance the demands of Catholic 

/ Warnings such as these, however, fell on deaf ears ; the 
Union was to be accomplished, whatever the means. A 
free rein was given to the Irish Government ; Cornwallis, 
upright and simple-minded, "hated his dirty work ;" Castle- 
reagh cynically acted on his maxim, that " to buy up the 
J fee-simple of Irish corruption," was a small price to pay for 
! a Union. The policy was systematically pursued of secur- 
ing, at any cost, a majority in the Irish Parliament. Pitt 
followed a precedent he had made in his proposed reform 
of the British Parliament ; the Irish close boroughs were 
treated as private property ; compensation was promised to 
their patrons when these were extinguished by a Union ; 
the great boroughmongers were thus gained by a com- 
1 pensation that was so extravagant, that it was little better 
; than a veiled bribe. More questionable expedients were, 
; ; however, employed ; there was direct bribery, if not very 
k I large, peerages were offered with a profusion that must 

I I be called scandalous ; reluctant officials were dismissed ; 
1 seats were made vacant to procure men who would vote 
■ for a Union — "strings going out, and coming in," as was 

wittily said — the law against placemen being perverted to 
suit the Castle's purpose. The Irish Parliament was thus 
dishonestly packed ; but Catholic Ireland, the mass of the 
community, remained ; it was most important to gain its 
distinct assent. Pitt saw the opportunity which the well- 
known divisions between the followers of Flood and those 
of Grattan, with respect to the Catholic claims presented ; 
he let it be understood that no measure of Irish Catholic 
relief would be permitted to become law in the Irish 

52 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

Parliament ; and Castlereagh was informed that though 
Geprge III. would not improbably make objections, "the 
principle of Catholic Emancipation was approved by the 
Cabinet," and that Cornwallis " need not hesitate to call 
forth all available Irish Catholic support " on behalf of a 
Union. Cornwallis, heart and soul in the Catholic cause, 
communicated all this to the Catholic leaders, not impro- 
bably giving a distinct pledge ; and these, seeing that the 
door of hope was closed in an Irish Parliament, and con- 
fiding in the words of the British Minister, did all that in 
them lay to promote the measure, the Catholic hierarchy 
especially using their immense influence with their flocks. 
Catholic Ireland was thus induced, for the most part, to 
pronounce for a Union, as a condition of relief, though the 
active Catholic party still stood aloof. Cornwallis also went 
progress through many counties ; and the authority of 
the Government, always imposing, procured some addresses) 
for a Union at public meetings. It should be added that' 
a growing minority of Irish Protestants had begun to 
despair of the continuance of their Parliament, and toll 
think of a Union ; and a considerable number of the Irisht 
gentry were already inclining to Pitt's project, as their 
only security after the events they had witnessed. The: 
Presbyterian North, too, hoped that a Union would improve 
its staple linen trade ; and the Presbyterian clergy were led! 
to believe that an increase would be made in the petty 
stipend they received from the State. 

The Irish Parliament was assembled for the last time ini 
the memorable Session of 1800. The King's Speech did 
not refer to a Union, for the process of packing was noil 
complete ; this was denounced by the Opposition in bitter 
words. The Resolutions, however, which had been voted 
at Westminster, were placed, in a few days, before the Irish 
Houses ; and the great measure of Pitt was fairly launched 
A long series of debates followed, marked by eminem 1 
ability on both sides, but also by passionate and wile 
invective. The case of the Government was sustained, ir| . 
the House of Commons, by Castlereagh, with capacity and 


skill ; he confronted furious adversaries with the intrepid 
calmness he exhibited through life, in the gravest crises : 
if not eloquent he was persuasive and lucid. He reiterated 
the arguments of Pitt ; but dwelt especially on the benefits 
in commerce and finance that Ireland would attain through 
a Union ; she would grow comparatively rich, and her 
Debt would diminish, words, that in view of the near future 
were the sorriest mockery. Clare assumed a different 
attitude in the House of Lords ; he spoke with even more 
than his wonted arrogance, condemned the Opposition in 
scornful language ; did not spare the bought and overawed 
nobles he dragged in his wake ; and declared that since 
the unfortunate Relief Act of 1793, and, above all, since the 
late Rebellion, there was no hope for Ireland save in a 
Union. His sketch of the position of the landed gentry, 
though exaggerated, deserves attention ; they were " the 
heirs of confiscation hemmed in by enemies brooding on 
their wrongs " ; Ireland was at the present time on the 
verge of bankruptcy and general social anarchy. The 
Opposition arrayed a host of powerful speakers, especially 
ornaments of the Irish Bar ; they maintained their cause 
by weighty and often brilliant argument. The lawyers 
dwelt much on the incapacity of the Irish Parliament to 
extinguish itself ; this was urged forcibly by Saurin, Bushe, 
and Plunket ; but the rising powers of Plunket — in after 
years one of the most sober debaters in the British Parlia- 
ment, conspicuous for his severe and convincing logic — 
were most evident in savage and personal attacks on Castle- 
reagh. Foster spoke again with characteristic insight ; he 
laid peculiar stress on the rapid progress which Ireland had 
made from 1782 to 1789 ; once more ridiculed the predic- 
tions of Pitt ; and sternly condemned the evil means that 
had been adopted to corrupt the Parliament. The most 
striking passages, however, in his speeches were those in 
which he reprobated the Union as a bad half measure ; it 
merely destroyed the Irish Parliament ; it did not make 
Great Britain and Ireland, even in theory, one ; it left 
Ireland, in most respects, a separate State, with a shadow 

54 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

of independence that, in the nature of things, would give 
rise to demands to give it substance. 

The master spirit, however, of these debates, indisputably 
was the illustrious Grattan. The author of the Constitution 
of 1782, when it was too evident that it was in the gravest 
peril, returned to the scene of his former triumphs to 
defend the settlement, of which he said in after years, 
"that I sate at its cradle, I followed its hearse." Grattan 
had been lately dismissed from the Privy Council, an act 
of iniquitous and base spite ; he was so ill when he entered 
the House of Commons, that he was unable to rise when 
he made his great speech ; but genius triumphed over bodily 
weakness ; the audience hung on the lips of the great 
orator, whose winged words were never more keen and 
convincing. He spoke several times in the Session ; his. 
speeches, occasionally marked by too fierce invective, 
and by mannerism straining at effect, but admirable 
specimens of cogent argument, condensed in succinct 
and vivid language, often flashing out in most telling 
epigram, were far superior to those of any other orator. 
Grattan traversed the ground which had been occupied by 
the Opposition, at every point, but with a rapidity and 
force that were all his own ; he charged Pitt with conspiracy 
against the rights of Ireland — " the men he hanged proposed 
to substitute a republic for the constitution ; he proposes to 
substitute the yoke of the British Parliament" — with an 
attempt to subvert a national settlement, by the foulest 
and most sinister means, and with the grossest ignorance 
of Irish affairs ; and he held up to ridicule and scorn, but 
with masterly power, the promises made by a purblind 
minister of prosperity and peace to be secured by a Union/ 
He denounced the corruption that had been employed to 
gain the Irish Parliament, but inveighed still more fiercely 
against the indirect corruption of holding expectations out 
to the Irish community, especially to Presbyterian and 
Catholic Ireland ; and in language unfortunately too pro- 
phetic, he adjured the Irish Catholics, as their devoted 
friend, not to trust Pitt or a British Parliament, but to look 


to their countrymen who would yet do them justice. He 
dwelt much on Foster's position that the proposed Union 
was, in fact, no Union ; " it was not an identification of the v 
people, for it excludes the Catholics ; it is only a merger of 
the Irish Parliament ; it incurs every objection to a Union, 
without obtaining one object which a Union proposes ; it 
is an extinction of the constitution and an exclusion of the 
people." The weightiest, however, of Grattan's arguments, 
that which is still of enduring interest, was that the Union by 
destroying the Irish Parliament, would destroy an organ of 
intelligence, in a sense national, and if far from perfect, 
capable of reform, and that this would corrupt, pervert, 
and envenom Irish opinion, and lead to faction, agitation, 
and evil conspiracies. The peccant humours would be 
driven in and would break out in disease. 1 

The Irish Parliament, however, had been made safe ; a 
majority was always forthcoming for Pitt's measure. The 
Opposition had, perhaps, recourse to the Government's arts 
and offered money for votes ; their leaders endeavoured 
to obtain addresses against a Union. Twenty Peers, too,v, 
recorded an able protest against the scheme in the Journals 
of their House, especially against its financial arrangements ; 
the protest, in this respect, was before long verified. The 
question was debated in the British Parliament ; the Whig 
Opposition made a determined stand ; but the Minister had 

1 I quote this striking passage, most remarkable in view of subse- 
quent Irish history : — " When you banish the Parliament, do you 
banish the people ? Do you extinguish the sentiment ? Do you ex- 
tinguish the soul ? Do you put out the spirit of liberty, when you 
destroy that organ constitutional and capacious, through which the 
spirit may be safely and discreetly conveyed ? What is the excellence of 
our constitution ? not that it performs prodigies, and prevents the birth 
of vices which are inseparable from human nature, but that it provides 
an organ in which those vices may play and evaporate, and through 
which the humours of society may pass without preying on the vitals. 
Parliament is that body where the whole intellect of the country may 
be collected, and where the spirit of patriotism, of liberty, and of 
ambition, may all act under the control of that intellect, and under the 
check of publicity and observation. But, if once these virtues or defects 
were forced to act in secret conclave or in dark divan they would pro- 
duce not opposition but conspiracy." 

56 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

an immense majority, and the debates on the subject were 
not very important. It deserves notice that, almost at the 
last moment, proposals were made in both Parliaments to 
ascertain the sense of the Irish Electorate, through a disso- 
lution or some other means ; but Pitt rejected these with 
haughty contempt ; they were Jacobin appeals to the 
sovereign people. His decision, however, is a significant 
comment on the assertions loudly made by his followers, 
that Ireland, on the whole, approved the Union ; and the 
petitions against the measure were more numerous, and 
contained ten times more names at least than those obtained 
by the Irish Government with all its efforts. The Resolu- 
tions, which had passed the Irish Parliament, were voted 
again in the Houses at Westminster ; they were afterwards 
turned into Bills ; and the Treaty of Union, as it was called, 
became law at the close of July 1800. It is difficult to say 
what was the real state of opinion in Ireland when the end 
had come. Dublin, the Irish Bar, and the earnest Catholic 
party apparently were as hostile as ever, as was a large 
majority of the landed gentry ; as probably was more than 
'two-thirds of Protestant Ireland. But Catholic Ireland, in 
the main, approved, however feebly and under pressure ; so 
did many Presbyterians and a great part of Protestant 
Ireland ; and there was nothing like a general and indig- 
nant protest. Ireland, in fact, was alarmed and largely 
passive ; it was felt that the measure must pass, in the 
presence of a large army and of an imperious Minister ; 
and a strong public opinion could not exist in a country 
separated into wide divisions of race and faith which had 
been greatly aggravated by late events, and without an 
energetic and powerful middle class. 

The Union, even as a Protestant Union, was a badly 
designed and very imperfect measure. It only merged the 
Irish in the Imperial Parliament ; Ireland continued to be a 
distinct realm. In Foster's words, the Union left us " every 
appendage of a kingdom, except what constitutes the 
essence of independence, a resident Parliament ; a separate 
state, a separate establishment, a separate exchequer, 


separate debt, separate courts, separate laws, the Lord- 
Lieutenant and the Castle remained." The evil conse- 
quences have been made only too manifest ; but this was 
an insignificant part of the defects of the Treaty. The 
Union left Catholic Ireland out of its scope, that is more 
than three-fourths of the Irish community ; it made no 
provision for the commutation of the tithes, or for the 
endowment of the Catholic priesthood — the first being the 
avowed policy of Pitt, the second actually promised a few 
months before ; and though one of the articles pointed to Y 
a change in the oaths that prevented Catholics from entering 
Parliament, Catholic Emancipation, as was intended, was 
not referred to. The Irish Catholics, therefore, were directly 
wronged ; as to the most important branch of their claims, 
they were left to rely on the hints or promises of Pitt, on 
the faith of which they had pronounced for the Union, 
with what consequences was soon to be seen ; and a measure, 
which ought to have done justice to all Ireland, if it was 
really to be a great message of peace, was, as to the chief 
part of Ireland, stamped with injustice. The constitutional 
arrangements of the Union, apart from the grave error 
condemned by Foster, do not require to be noticed at 
length. The Irish House of Lords was, of course, abolished ; 
but Ireland was to be represented in the Imperial House by 
28 Peers elected for life, and by 4 Prelates of the Established ~ 
Church ; and the Irish Peers were to retain their titles. 
The Irish House of Commons was also extinguished and 
200 of the Irish seats ; but the Irish counties were to return 
64 members, and the Irish boroughs and the University 36, 
in all 100 members to the Imperial Parliament. The per- 
petual maintenance of the Established Church was made a """" 
fundamental part of the Union — time was to prove the 
value of this security ; the settlement of the land was not 
changed, the Irish gentry relying readily on this with what 
results to their successors was to be shown by recent legis- 
lation of the Imperial Parliament. It should be added that 
while the Union left undone what it was essential to do, the 
corrupt pledges to the boroughmongers were faithfully 

58 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

carried out ; " honour," in the poet's words, " rooted in 
dishonour stood/' and the huge sum for compensation was 
charged to the Irish National Debt, a piece of financial 
sharp practice which needs no comment. 

The commercial provisions of the Union were simple in 
principle ; the trade in raw products between Great Britain 
and Ireland was made more free than it had been before ; 
the trade in manufactures was still largely restricted, and 
countervailing duties were retained to keep up equality. 
The financial arrangements were more important ; the 
subject is one of present and grave interest. Pitt, a disciple 
of Adam Smith, resolved, in his own words, to " assimilate 
Great Britain and Ireland ultimately in finance," that is, to 
place Great Britain and Ireland under the same fiscal system ; 
but he saw that this would be thoroughly unjust, nay, 
impossible, at the time of the Union. The National Debt 
of Ireland, in 1 800-1, had increased from rather more than 
.£2,000,000 to .£28,000,000 ; but it was even now not a 
fifteenth of that of England and Scotland ; Pitt, besides, 
knew well that a very poor country could not fairly bear 
the burdens of a very rich country ; it was out of the 
question, therefore, at this conjuncture to apply the prin- 
ciple of financial unity to the Three Kingdoms. The Union, 
accordingly, provided that Ireland was to pay a contribution 
of two-seventeenths of the whole, that is rather more than 
12 per cent., to the expenditure of the entire State, 
England and Scotland contributing about 88 per cent. ; 
and care was taken that this proportion should be subject 
to revision after twenty years. The Treaty enacted, too, 
that should the Debts of Great Britain and Ireland be 
extinguished, or should the contributions, thus adjusted, 
become to the Debts in the same proportion, Parliament 
might change the existing order of things and bring 
Ireland under the British fiscal system ; but this was to be 
expressly subject to the proviso, that Ireland, and, indeed, 
Scotland/ were to have special "exemptions and abate- 

1 The proviso was no doubt extended to Scotland because the Union 
with Scotland was repeatedly referred to in the debates on the Irish 




ments " of taxation, should the circumstances of the case 
require ; and Pitt and Castlereagh over and over again 
announced, that the meaning of these technical words was 
that Ireland was not to be unfairly taxed, that is, out of 
proportion to her own resources. There is no reason to 
doubt that Pitt believed that the contribution of the two- 
seventeenths was not more than Ireland ought to make ; but 
the charge was declared to be grossly unjust by Foster, 
Grattan, and other leading Irishmen ; and this was a chief 
part of the protest of the twenty peers referred to. As so 
often happened in Irish affairs, Pitt's calculations proved to , 
be altogether false, while those of his opponents were ere 
long verified. 

Pitt certainly intended to complete the Union by what he 
deemed its required supplements, Catholic Emancipation, ^ 
the commutation of the tithe, and a provision for the Irish 
Catholic priesthood. This was his policy ; his honour was * 
practically pledged. He had taken a crooked and unfortu- * 
-nate course ; he doubtless relied on his powerful influence 
to overcome the avowed objections of the King, of which he 
had been for some years cognisant. But Pitt was betrayed 4 
by his own Chancellor ; George III. was persuaded that his 
coronation oath precluded him from assenting to an Act of - 
Parliament making further concessions to Irish Catholics, a 
monstrous idea scouted by his own law-officers ; the Cabinet 
became divided in mind ; and the King peremptorily refused 
to give his sanction to Catholic Emancipation in any sense, 
though he might perhaps have accepted the two other 
measures of the first importance even by themselves. Pitt' 
resigned his office with his leading followers ; he is 
entitled to any credit that belongs to this step ; but George 
III. had shown, in a number of instances, that he would 
not resist the will of a resolute Minister ; and regard being 
had to the great interests at stake, and to what must be 
considered his own promises, Pitt ought to have insisted on 
giving effect to his policy. He did not take the line of duty 
which would have led to success ; this is the more censur- 
able because Cornwallis soon afterwards informed the 

60 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

Catholic leaders that Pitt and his party were pledged to 
further the Catholic claims ; and Pitt's resignation only 
caused the absolute failure of the three great reforms which 
should have been a part of the Union if it was to be a real 
harbinger of tranquillity and social progress. 

The subsequent conduct of Pitt cannot be justified in the 
mature judgment of impartial history. He let his master 
know after a few days that he would not urge the Catholic 
claims again in the reign ; he steadily supported an Anti- 
Catholic Ministry ; he was, perhaps, willing to join it on 
certain conditions ; when he returned to office in 1804 he 
completely abandoned the Catholic cause. Excuses, no 
doubt, can be made for him ; the King became insane, and 
Pitt naturally shrank from irritating an aged sovereign by 
untimely proposals; it was, perhaps, necessary, even after 
the Peace of Amiens, to add the strength of Pitt to a weak 
Government ; Pitt probably reasoned that, after all, he had 
accomplished the Union, his main object, and had made a 
great Imperial interest secure, and that all the rest might be 
postponed to a more convenient season ; and he may easily 
have deemed his presence at the helm of the State essential 
when the war broke out again and Napoleon's army was 
gathering as a mighty tempest near our shores, and that too 
without too nice a regard to his previous conduct as a man 
and a statesman. But one cardinal fact stands out from 
this tortuous maze of inconsistency and intrigues ; Catholic 
Ireland was as certainly betrayed as she was in many 
passages of her unhappy history ; the calamitous results 
may be traced to this hour, and Pitt is gravely responsible 
for them. Nor can we forget that Napoleon and his terrors 
are gone, and that discontented Catholic Ireland remains. l 

1 For the history of the Union and its incidents the reader may be 
referred to the Debates in the British and the Irish Parliaments, and 
especially to the Cornwallis and Castlereagh Correspondence, the 
Colchester Diary and the Malmesbury Correspondence. The Treaty 
should, of course, be studied ; its financial arrangements are fully set 
forth in the late Report of the Childers Commission. Mr. Lecky's narra- 
tive is exhaustive and just. The policy and conduct of Pitt may be 
collected from the same authorities ; and see Stanhope's Life of Pitt and 


The Union was not only a mutilated piece of work, in 
which the best of the design was left out, it was effected at 
a most unfortunate time. Pitt had expressed a hope, in 
stately Virgilian numbers, that Great Britain and Ireland, 
"unconquered nations," would be blended together in "per- 
petual concord " ; what was the prospect of this consumma- 
tion in 1 800-1 ? England was seeking a truce with her 
ancient enemy, and was soon to be involved in a death 
struggle in which she was forced to contend for existence. 
The nation was ruled by the reactionary faith which grew 
out of hatred of the French Revolution ; narrow Toryism 
prevailed in its councils ; it was an unpropitious season to 
take in hand the government of a backward dependency 
that required a progressive, a generous, and a sympathetic 
policy. Ireland, on the other hand, had been half ruined 
by a barbarous civil war ; the animosities of its races and 
faiths had been fatally quickened ; and not only the 
momentous Catholic Question, but other social questions 
of the first importance, were requiring consideration and 
treatment ; was it probable, at this conjuncture, that they 
would be rightly treated ? Nor was the Imperial Parlia- 
ment, in which the voice of Ireland would be feeble, 
discordant, and very ill understood, an institution adapted 
to legislate for and to administer a poor and distracted 
country, especially as Great Britain and Ireland were on 
levels of civilisation altogether different, as the mass of 
Englishmen and most English statesmen knew very little 
about Ireland, and regarded her as almost a foreign land, 
and as Ireland was in need of measures of reform repugnant 
to ordinary English ideas. In the interests of the Empire 
the Union, perhaps, was a necessity of State when the 

Sir G. Lewis's " Administrations of Great Britain." Lord Rosebery 
("Pitt," pp. 224-26), attempts to justify the Minister ; but the biographer 
is as superficial as he is in the case of Lord Fitzwilliam ; he ignores three- 
fourths of the charges that he was bound to answer, and impliedly 
admits them ; and we can only smile at the jaunty statement that 
George III. would not have yielded on the Catholic Question, when we 
bear in mind the antecedents and the character of the King. 

62 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

Treaty was made ; in the interests of Ireland it was, perhaps, 
to be desired that it should alike have been a complete 
measure, and should have been postponed to a more 
auspicious era. 



Ireland after the Union — Emmett's rebellion — Severe measures of repres- 
sion — Pitt rejects the Irish Catholic claims — Grattan in the Imperial 
Parliament — The Catholic Question after 1807 — Rise and character 
of O'Connell — His first exertions in the Catholic cause — The Veto — 
Schism in Catholic Ireland — Progress of the Catholic Question — 
Plunket — Peel — Death of Grattan — Ulster becomes attached to the 
Union — Increase of the Regium Donum — Protestant Ascendency 
— Orangeism — Ribbonism — Increase of English influences in Ire- 
land and the results— The Irish financial arrangements of 1816-17 — 
Material progress of Ireland during the war — Disastrous change 
afterwards — Increase of population — The effects on the Land system 
— Irish rents and wages — Increase of evictions — The resulting evils 
— The want of a Poor Law — The cheap code of ejectment — White- 
boyism and agrarian disorder — Peel Chief Secretary — Merits and 
defects of his rule in Ireland — The Irish Constabulary force — 
George IV. visits Ireland. His welcome — Outburst of agrarian 
crime and famine in 1822 — Progress of the Catholic Question in 
Parliament — Plunket's speech — Attitude of the House of Lords — 
O'Connell founds the Catholic Association — His objects and policy 
— The Irish priesthood — The Catholic Association acquires formid- 
able power — Attempts to suppress it prove vain — The Bill of 1825 
and "the wings" — Rejected by the House of Lords — Liberal Pro- 
testants returned at the General Election of 1826 — The Clare 
Election— Triumph of O'Connell — Catholic Emancipation reluc- 
tantly conceded. 

The Addington Ministry was one after the King's heart ; 
it was formed to resist the claims of Catholic Ireland. Its 
representative at the Castle was Lord Hardwicke, a plain 
but upright and sensible country gentleman ; Clare retained 
the Irish Seals for a time. The hills of Wicklow were not 


64 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

quite at rest, and there was agrarian disorder in parts of the 
South ; the first Irish measures of the fmperial Parliament 
were to renew, but for some months only, repressive legisla- 
tion of the Irish Parliament, especially Indemnity Acts , to 
screen official blunders, a fact left out of sight by English 
writers. In a short time Ireland was comparatively, at peace, ' 
and remained so for fully two years ; the real causes of this 
may be briefly noticed. The Peace of Amiens and the 
departure of the United Irish leaders for the moment 
extinguished treasonable hopes; the barbarities of 1798 had 
long ceased ; a reaction followed the excitement the Union 
had caused ; and all this tended to promote tranquillity. 
The Government, too, though avowedly anti-Catholic — the 
, doors of the Castle were closed to the heads of the Irish 
I Catholics— was, nevertheless, impartial to all classes ; its 
equitable administration was highly praised by Grattan ; the 
Catholic leaders still put their trust in Pitt ; and Hardwicke 
not only continued the policy of his amiable and humane 
predecessor, but won golden opinions by devoting funds to 
the restoration of Catholic places of worship which had 
been destroyed in the late rebellion. Not the least cause, 
perhaps, of this season of repose, was the disappearance of 
Clare from the scene of events. He had bitterly resented 
Pitt's conduct in encouraging Irish Catholic hopes ; he was 
indignant that the Minister had condemned the atrocities 
which he endeavoured to defend ; he soon discovered that 
the House of Lords at Westminster was not to be brow- 
beaten like the House of Lords in Dublin ; and he became 
a mere cypher in that proud assembly. He was, in a word, 
disappointed, angry, and sick at heart ; and an accident 
brought on a lingering illness, of which he died when 
scarcely past the prime of life. He was certainly one of the 
greatest Irishmen of his day ; it is impossible to deny that 
he gave proof of great ability, firmness, and courage 
during the crisis of 1797-8. But he was a principal agents 
in designing and carrying out the evil policy, which 
dashed the hopes of Catholic Ireland and helped to drive 
it into rebellious courses ; and the deeds of blood and 


wickedness to which he at least gave countenance, provoked 
much that was worst in the rising of 1798. 

A conspiracy, .however, followed by a sudden armed out- 
Break, which, though abortive, might have had grave results, 
disturbed <the quiet of Ireland in the summer of 1803. The 
United Irish leaders, after the late amnesty, had, we have 
seen, for the most part, repaired to France. In that con- 
genial soiLthey began to renew the designs they had formed 
against British rule in Ireland. They were divided, how- 
ever, by the jealous discords which have so often proved 
fatal to Irish plotters. Napoleon treated them at first with 
ill-concealed contempt, 1 though he held them, so to speak, 
in the leash, should he desire to let them slip on a future 
occasion ; when troubles with England began to thicken, he 
lent a willing ear to what they had to say ; and a young 
enthusiast, Robert Emmett, a brother of one of the ablest of 
these men, had an interview, it is believed, with the First 
Consul, and proposed to stir up rebellion in Ireland again, 
to be assisted by an armed descent from France. Emmett 
set off for Ireland in the autumn of 1802, but it is tolerably 
certain that he received no countenance at any time from 
the ruler of France, or even from the chief United Irish 
leaders. He was, however, sanguine, reckless, and daring ; 
he gradually surrounded himself with obscure chiefs of the 
risings in Wexford and around Dublin ; and he was aided 
by the counsels of Miles Byrne, a capable subordinate of 
Father John Murphy, and in after years a brilliant soldier of 
France. A plan of operations took regular shape ; pikes 
and other weapons of the late rebellion were collected 
secretly and in large quantities ; the project of 1798 was 
revived, as old indeed as that of 1641 ; the Castle was to be 
seized and the Government destroyed by armed bands 

1 Napoleon's estimate of the United Irish leaders, placed on record 
many years afterwards at St. Helena, deserves notice (Corr. 32, p. 328), 
"Je n'avais de confiance* ni dans l'integrite ni dans les talents des 
meneurs irlandais qui etaient en France. lis n'avaient aucun plan a 
soumettre, etaient divise^s d'opinion, et se querellaient continuellement 
entre eux." 


66 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

marching in from the neighbouring counties and by the 
disaffected mob of the capital, barricades being thrown up 
to paralyse the troops, an idea borrowed, perhaps, from 
experience in Paris. The conspirators, however, had 
traitors in their midst ; the Government was made aware 
of what was going on, and the "rebellion" ended in an 
affray in a street of Dublin, unhappily causing the murder 
of Lord Kilwarden, one of the most eminent of Irish 
judges, notable for his clemency on the Bench in a dark 
and evil time. Emmett was arrested and executed a few 
weeks afterwards ; he is a hero of rebellious Irish tradition, 
but history has nothing to say in his praise. " 

This petty rising caused great alarm in Ireland, and in 
England provoked indignant wrath, engaged as she was in 
a death struggle with France. Strong measures of defence 
and repression were taken ; the army in Ireland was raised 
to 15,000 men, though an immense invasion threatened the 
coast of Kent ; the whole Irish yeomanry force was called 
out, a grave incentive to evil Orange passions ; the Habeas 
Corpus Act was suspended in every Irish county ; whole 
districts were placed under martial law ; military courts 
were established to try offences that seemed to endanger 
the State, and even the rights of property. This system of 
coercion was to be regretted, no doubt ; it continued with a 
slight intermission throughout the war, and with partial 
relaxations for years afterwards ; and, instead of remedies, 
it was injudiciously applied to social troubles connected 
with the land and with the exactions of the Established 
Church, with respect to which it was almost worse than 
useless. But a treasonable party with French sympathies 
existed in Ireland until after Waterloo. It should be borne 
in mind that Grattan, through life hostile to the French 
Revolution and all that pertained to it, gave his high 
sanction to this very policy ; nor can we forget how great 
was the national peril when the Grand Army was encamped 
round Boulogne and the modern Caesar seemed about to 
descend on Britain. The conduct of Napoleon to the 
United Irish leaders at this critical juncture was character- 


istic of the man. His opinion of their qualities never 
changed ; but he flattered them as he flattered other 
"patriots " of peoples of which he desired to make use ; he 
pledged himself, it is said, 1 to Thomas Addis Emmett, that, 
in the event of a successful descent, Ireland should be 
treated as France had treated our revolted colonies in the 
Great War of 1776-83 ; and an invasion of Ireland has a 
distinct place in his second great project of invading 
England. 2 Napoleon dealt, in a word, with Irishmen as 
he had dealt with Italians and as he was to deal with the 
Poles in 1807 and 181 2 ; Ireland was to be an instrument 
to serve his ambitious plans ; and meanwhile he turned to 
excellent account the elements of Irish disaffection to his 
hands in France. He made Arthur O'Connor a General 
of the Grand Army ; formed an Irish Legion out of the 
waifs and strays of the rebel levies of 1798 ; gave it an eagle 
in homage to Irish pride ; and as Hannibal made the 
Italian Celt his own, he mastered the hearts of a devoted 
Irish soldiery. The Irish Legion was stationed along the 
coasts of Brittany as long as a prospect of assailing 
England remained, but when Trafalgar had closed this 
page in the Book of Fate the Legion followed the standards 
of the Grand Army, and sank into its enormous masses. 
It crossed swords with the hated Saxon in Spain ; left 
hundreds of brave men on the snows of Russia ; in a word, 
proved itself to be a worthy successor of the famous Irish 
Brigade of another age,3 " ever and everywhere true " to 
the Bourbon lilies. As late even as 1840 a few survivors of 
the Legion offered their swords to France when she seemed 
about to engage in a quarrel with England. 

When Pitt returned to office in 1804, the Irish Catholic 
leaders — the chief of these was Lord Fingall, the head of one 

1 The memorandum of Napoleon appears at length in Mitchell's 
"History of Ireland,'' vol. ii. p. 100. It is not to be found in the 
"Napoleon Correspondence,'' but much of this has been suppressed. 

2 Napoleon Corr. vol. ix. p. 557. 

" Semper et ubique fideles '' was the motto on the standards of the 
Irish Brigade. 

68 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

of the great houses of the Pale — waited on the Minister to 
prefer their claims. They had given proof of admirable 
loyalty in the affair of Emmett ; they were confident, with 
good reason, in the prospects of their cause. Cornwallis, 
we have seen, had distinctly let them know that Pitt and his 
followers were pledged to do them full justice ; he had 
placed two remarkable papers in their hands, the import 
of which was not doubtful. Cornwallis, it is true, had 
explained afterwards that he was in error in announcing 
a positive pledge ; but affairs of State, and even of ordinary 
life, could not be conducted if a colleague, in the position 
of Cornwallis, could not bind a superior by the assertions 
he had made. It is idle to deny the obligations of Pitt ; but 
he coolly threw his petitioners over, "though extremely 
polite " — are Fingall's words — " he gave us not the most 
distant hope," though "he expressed his own opinion as 
to the good policy of the measure." The Catholic leaders 
now addressed Lord Grenville and Fox ; their claims 
were urged in the Houses of Lords and Commons in able 
debates, the first of a long series ; but they were rejected by 
large majorities in both Houses. The occasion was remark- 
able as that on which Grattan appeared for the first time in 
the Imperial Parliament ; he had been returned by his 
friend Fitzwilliam for the borough of Malton. His 
mannerism and impassioned gestures were never congenial 
to English taste. Pitt regarded the great speaker for a few 
moments with contempt. But he soon found that he was 
in the presence of a true orator — the Irish Demosthenes 
Fox observed — and Grattan's speech, the first of many of the 
same kind, if perhaps not one of his very best, was a splendid 
piece of eloquence. He trampled down a crazy fanatic: 
whom he deigned to answer ; z denounced as monstrous the, 
doctrine that the Catholic — the tapestry of the Armada 
refutes the falsehood — was necessarily, and from his creed, [ 
a traitor to England ; contended that the ills of Ireland 
were due to the long misgovernment of the past, and not to 

1 Dr. Duigenan, a zealot and a buffoon hardly worthy of the bolts of 
Grattan, a fit mark for the light shafts of Moore's satire. 



Catholicism, as a system of faith ; and truly pointed out 
that, as affairs now stood, the half liberty of the Irish 
Catholic must either lead to complete liberty or to endless 
troubles and danger to the State. The orator, however, was 
perhaps most effective when he urged that the rights of con- 
science were real rights of man, not after the fantastic ideal 
of Rousseau ; that the principles of the Revolution of 1688 
involved the emancipation of the Irish Catholic ; above all, 
that Protestant England and Catholic Ireland should be 
reconciled at the existing crisis, and present a combined 
front against a mighty common enemy. The reply of Pitt, 
if evasive and weak, was pathetic ; he probably felt that his 
end was near ; he declared that he was in favour of the 
Catholic claims "on principle," but that "an irresistible 
obstacle stood in the way." 

The short-lived ministry of "All the Talents" was not 
without significance in the affairs of Ireland, but left no 
permanent mark on them. Fox honestly told the Catholic 
leaders that it was impossible, at the time, to press their 
claims ; but he intimated that a change would be made in 
the whole system of Irish government, in the interest of 
conciliation and peace. This promise was, in the main, 
fulfilled ; the Lord- Lieutenant, the Duke of Bedford, though 
in no sense a remarkable man, did much to satisfy Irish 
feelings and hopes ; and his departure from the Castle 
was attended by a loud expression of popular regret. 
Grattan was restored to the seat at the Privy Council, from 
which he ought never to have been removed, and was 
invited by Fox to take high office ; a number of Orange 
magistrates were dismissed from the Bench ; more im- 
partial men were put in their places ; prosecutions were 
dropped that should not have been instituted ; above all, 
the severest measures of repression were not renewed by 
Parliament, and Ireland was governed, for some months, 
by the ordinary law of the land. Ere long, however, it was 
found impossible, so questionable still was the state of the 
country, to avoid having recourse to the coercive system ; 
this, as we have seen, was acknowledged by Grattan ; the 

7o IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

Ministry, before it fell, had prepared measures to deal with 
Irish disaffection and crime almost as harsh and restrictive as 
those of 1803. At the accession of the Portland and Percival 
Administration to power, the Duke of Richmond was made 
Lord-Lieutenant ; he continued to preside at the Castle for 
rather a long period. His convivial habits and splendid 
festivities were remembered in Irish society for many years, 
but as a ruler and statesman he was a mere figurehead ; 
he simply obeyed the orders he received from Downing 
Street ; and these were to return, in all respects, to the 
system of Protestant Ascendency long prevalent, to dis- 
courage in every way the Catholic cause, and to govern 
Ireland, if necessary, by a rod of iron. The Duke, however, 
had one Chief Secretary whose conduct requires a passing 
notice. Arthur Wellesley had sat in the Irish Parliament ; 
he had seconded the Address when the great measure of 
Catholic relief became law in 1793 ; he was well acquainted 
with the condition of Ireland ; he had already had a distin- 
guished career in India. He was at the Castle for a few 
months in 1807-8 ; it might have been supposed that so 
eminent a man would have had real influence in Irish 
affairs and government. But Wellesley characteristically 
kept to the ordinary round of a subordinate's duty ; and 
though he was too sagacious not to perceive clearly that 
there was much rotten in the state of Ireland, especially 
in her administration and landed relations, he did little 
more than carry out the business placed in his hands, that 
is the management of elections, the dealing with patronage, 
and the preparation of coercive measures. With respect to 
Ireland, indeed, he never exhibited the profound insight 
and wisdom of which he gave proof in Spain, and in the 
councils of Europe. 

Ireland continued to be under the mode of government 
to which we have before referred ; it is unnecessary to 
follow the dreary tale of administration working through 
severe repression, and of Protestant Ascendency apparently 
secure. During the years that succeeded the fall of the 
Fox-Grenville Ministry, the Catholic question was often 


brought before Parliament ; Grattan, as always, was its 
most powerful champion. But it made no real way in ti.+ 
Houses at Westminster, though the majorities against him 
rather declined ; at the General Election of 1807 England 
had pronounced against the Irish Catholic cause ; many 
forces, indeed, concurred to defeat it. Canning and Castle- 
reagh, no doubt, were on Grattan's side, but Canning and 
Castlereagh soon quarrelled, and Percival and the rest 
of the members of the Liverpool Government were 
decidedly adverse to the Catholic claims. These, indeed, 
had little chance of an impartial hearing in the existing 
state of English and Scottish opinion. A harsh and 
narrow Toryism ruled the national councils. Things as 
they were, were to be steadily maintained, whether for 
good or for evil made no difference. The spirit, too, 
that prevailed in the Church of England, was very 
hostile to the Irish Catholics ; the Evangelical party, 
perhaps the strongest, abhorred Popery and all its works ; 
the Erastian party, also very strong, would not hear of a 
change that might weaken or even shake the Established 
Church in Ireland. The national sentiment, too, moved 
in the same direction ; Catholic Ireland visibly inclined 
towards France ; was this the time to favour the Irish 
Catholic, when Napoleon had armed against England 
more than half of Europe, and was virtually the head of 
the Catholic Church on the Continent ? These opinions 
were more than once confirmed by unwise utterances 
of French bishops, and by an imaginary statement of 
Pius VII. and until the fortunes of the war had begun to 
change, there was scarcely a hope for the Catholic cause. 
Ten years had passed away since the Union ; the Irish 
Catholics had been cruelly deceived ; their prospects 
appeared to be all but hopeless. Fingall, too, and his 
aristocratic followers, loyal and earnest as they were, had 
altogether failed ; the predictions of the small active party, 
which had resented the Union, had been fulfilled. Even 
that party had almost ceased to stir, since Pitt had rejected 
the Catholic claims ; from 1803 to 1807 it was represented 

72 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

on the committee in Dublin by only one public man of 
'.lark, John Keogh, a veteran of 1792-3. Meanwhile, how- 
ever, a real leader was being gradually formed in its ranks, 
a leader who was to remove the shackles which still kept 
Catholic Ireland down, and to bring it fully within the Pale 
of the State, and was long to play a conspicuous part in 
Irish, British, and even European politics. Daniel O'Con- 
nell was born in 1775, a scion of an old family of Kerry 
Celts, which had suffered much in the civil wars of Ire- 
land, and from the oppression of the Penal Code, but had 
retained parts of its ancestral lands, had sent distinguished 
soldiers to the Irish Brigade, 1 and had never lost its place 
among the landed gentry. O'Connell, although an Irish 
Catholic, and belonging to a degraded people, had thus 
associations with the dominant Protestant caste ; we see 
the twofold influence in his career ; and it had a marked 
effect on his acts and his conduct. The nature of the man 
and his training from youth made him admirably fitted to 
become the champion of Catholic Ireland, and to promote 
its cause, and at the same time, to avoid the perilous 
courses, which had led the United Irishmen astray, and 
even to conciliate much that was best and most enlightened 
in Irish opinion. O'Connell had the cunning and craft of 
a conquered race — with the brilliancy and sanguine temper 
of the Celt, he possessed the hard common sense of the 
Saxon, his sagacity, his political instinct, and circumstance, 
in his early years, strongly developed these qualities. As a 
boy he had been an adept in smuggling — then a common 
traffic among the Kerry gentry. In his first manhood at the 
Irish Bar, he became not only a great lawyer but a master 
of the intricacies of the law, especially in its arts of delay 
and evasion. He was brought up for a time in France by 
priests of her old Church ; under this teaching he became a 
devout Catholic, and acquired deep Conservative sympathies, 
an attachment to monarchy, property, and the existing 

1 The most remarkable of these was Count O'Connell, an uncle of 
Daniel, most honourably referred to in General Thiebault's Memoirs. 
Count O'Connell hated the Revolution, and distrusted Napoleon. 


order of things ; and he witnessed the excesses of the Revo- 
lution, which made so profound an impression on him, that 
in his chequered career he always condemned anarchic law- 
lessness and mere mob violence. These influences had such 
an effect on him that, he said, they " made him almost a 
Tory," when he went back to Ireland ; but the cruel deeds 
of the men in power at the Castle, and the sufferings of his 
race in 1798, turned him into the ranks of the discontented 
Catholics, who condemned the policy of Camden and Clare, 
yet wished to preserve their country's Parliament. O'Con- 
nell, however, retained through life what he learned in 
France ; and if he became a great popular tribune, and even 
directed powerful popular movements, he had the leanings 
and tendencies of a real statesman, far-sighted, prudent, 
ready to compromise, averse to wild theories and sudden 
changes ; there was little in him of the mere demagogue, 
extravagant and reckless as often was his language. 

O'Connell was still an unknown lawyer when he joined 
the small but earnest Catholic body, which vehemently pro- 
tested against the Union. He spoke with marked ability at 
its meetings in Dublin ; he was the author, it is believed, of 
its watchword, that it was better to recur to the Penal Code 
than for Catholic Ireland to lose the Parliament, in which its 
influence was certain to increase. Though kept back by 
judges of Orange tendencies, and by restrictions of the Act of 
1793, which excluded him from the rank of King's Counsel, 
he soon acquired a prominent place at the Bar ; and he 
became a leading member of the Association, which, we have 
seen, still upheld the Catholic cause in Dublin. The Catholic 
petition of 1807 — temperate, but firm in its language — was, 
it is said, from his hand ; in 1810, when thirty-five years old, 
he was elected Chairman of the Committee by a unanimous 
vote, and thenceforward became its master spirit. Fingall 
and the other Catholic peers and gentlemen were relegated 
to a secondary place ; Keogh was removed from his post 
with words of honour ; and the direction of the Irish 
Catholic movement passed virtually into O'Connell's hands. 
Since 1805 the Committee had done scarcely anything, and 

74 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

had even recommended a " policy of silent dignity " ; but 
" agitate, agitate " was the new leader's teaching ; he at once 
gave a real impulse to the Catholic cause. His ideas, at 
first, were, perhaps, rather crude, and borrowed from those 
of another day ; the Central Committee in Dublin affiliated 
itself to local committees throughout the country ; an 
organisation was thus established in order to promote the 
Catholic claims, and for some months it seemed full of 
promise. A combination like this, however, was held to be 
a violation of the well-known Convention Act, passed after 
the Relief Act of 1793, and prohibiting assemblies of a 
representative kind. Fingall and other leaders were placed 
under arrest ; and O'Connell declared the Committee and 
its dependent bodies dissolved. Skilled in eluding the law, 
but acting within it, he set up in its stead a "Catholic 
Board," with " aggregate meetings " in different parts of 
Ireland ; this arrangement baffled the men of the gown 
at the Castle ; and the " agitation " — he had made the word 
his own — was kept up during the years that followed. The 
movement, however, was weak and faint ; it was retarded by 
a concurrence of causes ; Catholic Ireland, in fact, was 
divided and had lost heart. The leader, who was to win 
its battle, was for a time a commander without an army to 

O'Connell, however, never gave up hope ; he turned 
this interval of time to admirable account. His position 
at the Bar had become commanding ; he was in the 
first rank of Irish advocates, and eminent above all in the 
conduct of causes ; in the political trials in which he was 
always engaged, he employed his powerful, if somewhat 
rude eloquence in denouncing the wrongs of Catholic 
Ireland, and, indirectly, in pressing its demands. He held 
up to execration and contempt Protestant juries packed to 
make verdicts safe, and Protestant judges when mere 
partisans ; he indignantly asked how the Irish Catholic 
could obtain justice, even in its highest place, under the 
order of things in which he was forced to exist. He also 
wrote much in the Irish Catholic Press, and, indeed, had 


the chief direction of it ; he was in constant correspon- 
dence with leading Irish priests, an order of men he had 
begun to court, and whose possible influence in the State he 
clearly perceived. By these means he attracted Catholic 
Ireland to him ; and he gradually gave a turn to Irish 
opinion, which ultimately had important results. In these 
years, too, he publicly adopted a course which, he declared, 
when dying, was the one next to his heart, if more than 
once he seems to have trifled with it. In 1810, and for 
some time afterwards, there was a feeble movement in 
Dublin against the Union. ^Grattan gave it a somewhat 
qualified support ; but O'Connell boldly pronounced in its 
favour, and made more than one remarkable speech on the . 
subject. He dwelt much, and with pregnant truth, on the 
ignorance of British statesmen in Irish affairs, on the 
incapacity of the Imperial Parliament to deal wisely with.^^ 
Irish questions, on the foreign character of its legislation, 
and its administrative rule ; and he earnestly adjured 
" Irishmen, of every race and faith, to put their evil animosities 
aside, and to unite in the interests of a common country, 
to acquire again a Parliament taken from them by force and 
fraud." O'Connell, indeed, it is scarcely doubtful, had often 
Grattan's ideal before his mind, but an ideal not to be 
realised by Grattan's methods, and with consequences, in 
many respects, of a very different kind. 

At this period, however, and for years afterwards, 
O'Connell gave his best energies to the Catholic Question. 
A remarkable incident divided and even threatened to arrest 
a movement already halting and feeble. In 1799, when a 
provision for the Irish Catholic clergy was, we have seen, 
offered to the heads of their Church, they agreed that 
appointments to the Episcopate should be made subject to 
a Veto on the part of the Crown, in order to secure the 
loyalty of personages of immense authority. This arrange- 
ment conformed to the policy of the Holy See, in many 
instances, in the eighteenth century ; it was afterwards illus- 
trated in a signal way, by the celebrated Concordat made by 
Napoleon ; but after the Union the subject was let drop, like 

76 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

others of Pitt's unfulfilled projects. In 1808, however, Dr. 
Milner, acting as a Catholic prelate in England, declared that 
Pius VII. would accept the Veto ; the statement was repeated 
by Quarantotti, one of the Vatican's chief counsellors, when 
the Pontiff was a prisoner at Fontainebleau. Fingall, and the 
Irish Catholic leaders of the aristocratic type, unanimously 
agreed to a settlement of the kind ; the principal English 
and Scottish Catholics concurred ; and from 1808 onwards, 
during several years, when the Catholic claims were advanced 
in Parliament, the Veto was made a part of them. O'Connell, 
however, from the beginning denounced the project ; he 
never opposed an endowment of the Irish priesthood ; but 
he would not hear of making the Bishops of his faith 
dependent on the State, and subjecting the Irish Catholic 
Church to it. The Veto, he insisted, would bring the " evil 
Castle influence " into every diocese, nay, every parish ; 
it would make the clergy mere tools of the Government ; it 
would be better for the Church to have the kind of freedom 
it had even under the Penal Code, than to be in the fetters 
of sinister and alien power. He took his stand, indeed, on 
the very position which Burke had taken before on this 
subject x ; whether he was right or wrong, he clearly per- 
ceived that the Veto and all that it involved would interfere 
with a project he had already in view, the combination of 
the Irish priesthood and the mass of the people in a great 
movement on behalf of the Catholic cause. The efforts of 
O'Connell, urged in impassioned speeches, and in corres- 
pondence through all parts of Ireland, were soon attended 
with complete success ; the Irish Catholic Bishops, after a 
moment of doubt, declared that they would not submit to 
the Veto ; the inferior clergy, and the immense majority 

1 The remarks of Burke, "Works," vol. i. p. 537, Edition 1834, 
deserve attention. I have only space for a sentence from his " Letter 
to a Peer," on a policy analogous to that of the Veto : — " How can a 
Lord-Lieutenant . . . discern which of the popish priests is fit to 
be a bishop ? ... No man, no set of men living, are fit to administer 
the affairs, or regulate the economy of a church to which they are 
enemies. . . . Never were the members of one religious sect fit to 
appoint the pastors of another." 


of the Irish Catholics pronounced against it. The triumph 
of O'Connell was beyond dispute, but it led to a schism and 
discords very injurious to the Catholic cause, in Ireland at 
least. Fingall and his adherents broke with O'Connell, and 
ceased to attend the Catholic Board ; the English and 
Scottish Catholics condemned the Irish leader, more 
especially because he had taken the conduct of the Catholic 
Question out of the hands of Grattan, a striking proof of 
his rapidly growing influence. The movement, abandoned 
by its aristocratic heads, seemed in Ireland left to the 
direction only of a lawyer without rank, and a body of 
inferior clergy. 

The Catholic cause, however, though kept back in Ireland, 
began to make its way in the Imperial Parliament, when the 
events of the war turned against Napoleon. The question had 
been left an open question by Lord Liverpool ; and Grattan, 
with the powerful support of Canning, in 181 3 brought in 
a Bill conceding most of the Catholic claims, which passed 
a second reading in the House of Commons. It contained, 
however, clauses, added by Canning, which expressed the 
policy of the Veto in an offensive form ; these were severely 
condemned by O'Connell, and the measure ere long was 
lost in committee. Though its acknowledged champion 
no more, Grattan continued during the following years 
to press the claims of Catholic Ireland ; his speeches were 
invariably worthy of him ; and he found a great adherent 
in Plunket, who had lately made his way into Parlia- 
ment and whose speech on the Catholic Question in 
1813 gave presage of the renown of an orator, perhaps, 
without an equal in the assembly that hung on the lips 
of Brougham and Canning. The majorities against the 
Irish Catholics declined by degrees ; the mind of England 
and Scotland became less adverse as the national sentiment 
against them was not now aroused ; and their claims were 
upheld by the whole Whig party rising once more into 
credit in the State, and by the best and most enlightened 
intellect of the day. This preponderance of mental and 
moral force was significant, but one advocate of the first 

78 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

order made his influence felt on the opposite side. Peel 1 
had entered the House of Commons in 1809 ; he was soon I 
recognised as the most capable and eminent adversary of I 
the Catholic cause. The speech he made on the subject || 
in 1 8 17, when he had not completed his thirtieth year, I 
contains the views he held on the question until he was I 
compelled to recede from them ; it was certainly one of |i 
his ablest efforts, and characteristic of the great coming !ji 
statesman. He set theological squabbles aside and attached I 
no weight to the foolish assertion that a Catholic was I 
necessarily an enemy of a Protestant State. He rather took m 
his stand on the ground held by Clare, but avoiding Clare's I 
arrogance and insulting language ; he contended that, in j 
the existing order of things in Ireland, the institutions of ! 
the country, which, for good or for evil, were framed to I 
maintain a Protestant minority in power, and to secure 
it in the possession of the great mass of the land, would | 
inevitably, and from the nature of the case, be placed in 1 
danger were a great majority of hostile Catholics admitted j 
to equal privileges and rights ; and he dwelt much on the I 
sanctity of the Union, as a guarantee of the status of the j»i 
Established Church in Ireland, which Catholic Emanci- 1 
pation, he was convinced, would assuredly subvert. The I 
speech was cautious, dexterous, full of the spirit of 
expediency and prudence which distinguished Peel ; it ! 
certainly embodied much that was true, but it did not I 
rise to the full height of the argument. 

O'Connell repudiated an advocate of the Veto, though I 
he has paid a high tribute to Grattan's genius, yet if I 
Catholic Ireland had almost thrown him off, the great I 
patriot "clung with desperate fidelity" to its cause. He I 
did not live to see that cause triumph ; but after the last I 
speech he made, in a debate in 1819, the majority against ; 
him was two only. He died revered and lamented the !| 
next year ; his is, perhaps, the noblest figure in Irish history. I 
Nature gave Grattan a keen and profound intellect, the I 
passion and force of a true orator, the wisdom and modera- 1 
tion of a real statesman. A patriot from youth he denounced ![ 


the wrongs of his country ; he was the Washington of the 
Revolution of 1782, the master-builder of the transformed 
Irish Parliament. The independence of that assembly was 
dear to his heart ; but the great Irishman was a loyal friend 
of England ; he was always true to the British connection. 
He sought to reform the Irish Parliament, but within just 
and constitutional limits ; he earnestly laboured, when its 
leading spirit, to bring Catholic Ireland within the Pale 
of the State ; but he detested the United Irish faith and 
revolutionary ideas of all kinds ; he was a firm supporter 
of order, and of the rights of property. He properly con- 
demned the evil deeds of the men at the Castle before 
1798 ; he tried to prevent the effects by a healing policy ; 
but no thought of disaffection crossed his mind ; his only 
protest against wrong when he failed, was to leave Parlia- 
ment. He rightly denounced the means employed to bring 
about the Union ; his predictions of its results have been 
largely fulfilled ; he admirably pointed out its grave defects ; 
but he accepted the compact in his later years. "The 
marriage has been made," he once said, "let us make it 
fruitful." In the Imperial Parliament he was, by many 
degrees, the most brilliant advocate of the Catholic claims ; 
no speeches approach his in genius and splendour. But 
it was Grattan's chief and distinctive excellence that he 
conceived, even in early manhood, and endeavoured to 
realise through his illustrious life, the ideal of a united 
and contented Ireland, freed from the animosities of race 
and faith, happy under an equal law and a just social 
order, an ideal made impossible in Grattan's time, but 
an ideal to which true-hearted Irishmen should aspire. 

While Catholic Ireland was being ruled by coercion, and 
the success of the Catholic cause was still uncertain, a great 
change had passed over Presbyterian Ulster. The Irish 
Presbyterians, we have seen, had broken with the Catholic 
rebels in 1798 ; their old antipathies of race and creed had 
revived, and their hatred and contempt of Catholic Ireland 
increased as Protestant Ascendency was strengthened after 
the Union. The hopes, too, which had been held out to them, 

80 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

that their staple linen manufacture would rapidly improve, 
as a result of that measure, had been fulfilled ; though it 
is probably doubtful if this was not rather due to the 
progress of machinery and to the effects of the war, which 
gave a monopoly to British trade, than to the Union 
regarded by itself. But the wealth of Ulster had been 
multiplied ; Belfast was growing into a large seaport and 
seat of commerce ; and these various circumstances con- 
curred not only to separate the Presbyterian North from 
the Catholic South more widely, but to attach it firmly to 
the British connection. Within twenty years after the 
Treaty of Union, the province in which the United Irish 
doctrines had first been successfully preached, nay, in 
which rebellion had first been hatched, became in its 
Presbyterian and Protestant parts — and these controlled 
the entire community — devotedly friendly and loyal to 
England, a sentiment which has grown stronger and 
stronger in the progress of time. Another influence, too, 
of a very potent kind co-operated in the same direction. 
The Presbyterian Church had, since the reigns of Charles 
II. and William III., received a small annual sum from the 
I State ; and a kind of promise had, we have said, been made 
that an addition would be made to this pittance after the 
Union. This was carried into effect by Castlereagh in 
1803 ; the Regium Donum, as it was called, was increased 
many fold, and since then has been largely increased ; and 
the grant was so arranged as to make the Presbyterian 
clergy much more dependent on the State than they had 
been before. This policy savoured, no doubt, of state- 
craft ; x but it strengthened the ties that bound Ulster to 
Great Britain. 2 It is significant of what the results would 
have been had a similar provision been made for the Irish 

1 For the policy which caused the increase of the Regium Donum, 
see Castlereagh, " Memoirs," vol. iv. p. 224, 

2 The effects of the increase of the Regium Donum are well 
described in a remarkable letter in the Castlereagh " Memoirs," vol. iv. 
p. 289. How completely separated the Presbyterian North was from 
the Catholic South in 181 2 is noticed by Wakefield, vol. ii. p. 370. 


Catholic priesthood, if made generously and without an 

As for the Government of Ireland, from 1800 to about 
1820, its most marked feature was the development of Pro- 
testant Ascendency, under repressive laws. This system, no 
doubt, was prevalent before; it was in the fullest force in the 
c _t Irish Parliament from 1795 to 1798; but in the years pre- 
viously it had been somewhat softened ; it was certainly 
strengthened after the Union. Much allowance, indeed, 
must be made for this ; the Irish Parliament had set the 
example, the Empire was placed in danger by France, 
Catholic Ireland inclined to our enemy's side, the spirit of 
the time was harsh and oppressive. But the pernicious 
results were not the less manifest ; Protestant Ascendency 
acquired augmented power ; the subjection of Catholic 
Ireland became more than ever complete ; and this at the 
time when an armed despot had established religious 
equality in France. The administration of Ireland became 
strictly sectarian ; the Act of 1793 was set at nought ; from 
the High Sheriff to the lowest county officer every place was ( 
i filled by the Protestant caste ; Protestants only were found 
1 in the jury box, and alone decided the course of justice ;| 
Catholics, already subject by law to galling restrictions, were 
excluded from the magistracy, from the army in its higher 
grades, and from the functions of local government. Yet 
even these were not the worst results ; the system of 
ascendency and the temper of the time gave a remarkable 
impulse to Orange tendencies, and made Orangeism spread 
over all parts of the country. This was promoted by the 
calling out of the Orange Yeomanry after the unhappy out- 
break of 1803 ; by the direct influence of two Royal Dukes, 
one, the Duke of York, being the head of the army, and, 
both notoriously with Orange sympathies ; by more than 
one of the leading men at the Castle ; and by a small 
minority of the landed gentry, who had not forgotten the 
events of 1798, though certainly not by a large part of the 
order. A central Orange Association had been formed ; 
Orange Lodges, as they were called, sprung up in every 


82 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

county, and in many found sinister, but active support. 
The consequences were, in a high degree, unfortunate ; law- 
less societies, setting themselves above law, were banded 
together, sometimes in formidable strength, to oppress and 
injure the Irish Catholic ; their work was often exhibited in 
atrocious deeds ; but it was most manifest, perhaps, in the 
perversion of justice when administered by purely Orange 
juries. The Catholics tried of course to retaliate ; the old 
feud of the Defenders and Peep of Day Boys revived ; Ribbon 
Societies combined to resist Orangemen ; and, praying in aid 
the Whiteboy system and making use of agrarian wrongs, 
kept whole districts in confusion and terror. The law was 
properly directed against these bodies of men, but it was 
not administered with impartial justice ; Orangeism was 
seldom punished for criminal acts of which its adherents 
had been guilty, Ribbonism was pursued with the sternest 

Other characteristics of the affairs of Ireland at this time 
require to be rapidly glanced at. The Union tended greatly 
to increase English influence and power in Irish Govern- 
ment, and to strengthen the peculiar system of rule at the 
Castle. The boroughmongering Peers and Commoners of 
the defunct Parliament had Irish administration largely in 
their hands ; they gradually were set aside in this province, 
Englishmen filled nearly all the higher places in the State, 
the successors of Clare were for years Englishmen. The 
government at the Castle for the same reason became more 
bureaucratic, foreign, and harsh ; it had been tempered by 
influences which, if those of a caste, were, nevertheless, 
in a sense, Irish ; and the change was promoted by the 
weakening of the landed gentry, caused by the rising of 
1798, and by what had gone before it. Another feature of 
the period was a marked depression and want of energy and 
force in Irish opinion. This, no doubt, had never been 
strong or really national, but Grattan's observation was not 
devoid of truth ; the Irish Parliament did represent and 
embody Irish opinion in a certain measure, and this instru- 
ment of thought and discussion had been destroyed. Again, 


Castlereagh had been quite wrong in calculating that he 
could " buy up the fee-simple of Irish corruption " by the 
Union, the domain of that evil plague of states had, pro- 
bably, been more or less extended after that measure. 
Unquestionably corruption ran riot before the Union, but it 
was encouraged by the means employed to bring the Union 
about ; it seems to have increased in the years that followed, 
and to have spread more deeply and been more shameless. 
I No pages in Irish history before the Union contain such 
evidence of bribery, of peculation, of universal jobbery, of 
profuse, and even grotesque buying and selling dishonestly 
in the State as are to be found in the letters of Arthur 

A very important change was made in the financial system 
of Ireland in 18 16-17. The calculations of Pitt and Castle- 
reagh made before the Union proved false as Grattan, 
Foster, and the twenty peers foretold ; her taxation was 
doubled, and sometimes trebled ; yet she was unable to 
contribute the two-seventeenths, that is, the payment of 
about 12 per cent., to the expenditure of the State 
arranged by the Treaty. She was therefore compelled to 
borrow immensely ; her Debt, which at the Union was 
.£28,000,000, had risen to the huge sum of ^112,000,000 at 
the close of the war. It had been agreed, we have seen, by 
the Treaty, that should the Debts of Great Britain and Ireland 
and their contributions become in the same ratio, the ideal 
of Pitt might be realised, and Ireland might be " assimilated 
to Great Britain in finance," with a special provision, how- 
ever, in her favour ; this contingency had more than 
happened before 1815, for the contribution of Ireland, com- 
pared with the Debt, was less in proportion than that of 
Great Britain compared with her own. The subject was 
investigated in the House of Commons, and Resolutions 
were voted in 18 16 to the effect that the time had come 
when the Three Kingdoms might be placed under the same 
fiscal system, when the Debts of both islands might be made 
one, and when their taxation might become identical, as far 
as was consistent with the Treaty of Union. An Act was 

84 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

passed, accordingly, which provided for the abolition of the 
separate Irish Exchequer, and for the amalgamation of the 
twofold Debt ; but the Resolutions expressly declared that, 
under the new financial system, the taxation of Ireland was 
to be " subject to the exemptions and abatements " secured 
to her by the Union ; that is, that she was not to be taxed 
unduly beyond her means. This arrangement, no doubt, 
relieved Ireland from a load of debt, but it was no generous 
concession, as had been said ; it removed only a part of a 
burden which never should have been imposed on her ; it 
was only a small instalment of justice. It was open to the 
objection, besides, that it made Ireland subject — if the 
liability was indeed remote — to a gigantic National Debt 
which she had not incurred, and that in " assimilating her 
finances to those of Great Britain " her security for equitable 
taxation might be impaired. For many years, however, as 
we shall see, the Treaty was respected in this matter ; the 
taxation of Ireland was not made the same as that of England 
and Scotland; Ireland had the benefit of u the exemptions 
and the abatements" to which she had a right, and that too 
interpreted in the true sense. 1 

Notwithstanding unjust taxation, however, Ireland made 
considerable material progress, after the Union, until the 
Peace of 1815. The condition of the poorer classes, indeed, 
declined by degrees, but imports and exports increased at 
least one-third, the rental of the country was augmented ; 
if some petty manufactures perished, the linen manufac- 
ture, we have seen, made a great advance. These signs 
of prosperity were most marked in Ulster, but they were 
apparent in many parts of Ireland, and if the shallow 
optimism of officials made too much of them, for they 
were chiefly due to the events of the war, and to the 
economic consequences of these, they were, nevertheless, 
distinct and real. 2 But a great and disastrous change passed 

1 For the financial arrangements of Ireland made at the Union, and in 
1 8 16-17, see the Report of the Childers Commission. The evidence of 
Sir E. Hamilton, a Treasury witness hostile to Ireland, is significant. 

3 See the tables and statistics in " Wakefield," vol. i. pp. 680-762 ; vol. 
ii. pp. 1-70. The results are fairly summed up in Mitchell's " History 
of Ireland," vol. ii. p. 118, the unwilling testimony of an Irish rebel. 


over the country, especially throughout its landed relations, 
by many degrees the most important, in the years that 
followed the close of the contest with France, a change due 
to causes for a long time in progress, but brought to a crisis 
by social conditions suddenly affected for the worse. The 
organic structure of the land system of Ireland had not 
I been altered to a very great extent, that is, absentees were 
numerous, and after the Union had, certainly in some 
degree, increased ; middleman tenures, with their mis- 
chiefs, had diminished, but were still common in many 
counties, shackling property in a kind of pernicious 
mortmain, and especially oppressive to the tillers of the 
soil ; and the land, with large exceptions, was in the hands 
of a peasantry of small farmers, divided in the South and in 
Ulster, to a considerable extent, from owners different in 
race and faith. But a concurrence of causes, partly due to 
the Corn Laws of the Irish Parliament, partly to the effects of 
the long war which had promoted agriculture in an extra- 
ordinary way, partly to the operation of the Relief Act of 
1793, which had induced landlords to multiply voters on 
their estates, in order to gain political influence, and to 
create thousands of petty tenants, known by the name of 
forty-shilling freeholders, and not least to the early mar- 
riages of a half-servile race, had given an intense stimulus 
to population. Ireland, which, before the Union, had from 
four to five million of souls, had at the Peace about six 
millions and a half. A process, therefore, previously 
going on, had been accelerated in a remarkable degree ; 
pasturage all over Ireland was replaced more and more by 
tillage ; the land was split up over immense and ever- 
growing areas, into little patches, often of the minutest 
extent, the abodes of dense, teeming, and poor multitudes. 
The consequences of this state of things became, by 
degrees, more and more manifest. Rents rose, not so 
much owing to the advance of wealth, as from a fierce 
competition for the possession of the soil, and, in many in- 
stances, became extravagant. The owners of the land also 
lived at greater expense, and especially increased the charges 

86 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

on their estates, for the value of these seemed ever grow- 
ing ; this was notably the case with absentees and middle- 
men, and the tendency to exaction, visible before, became 
more apparent. At the same time the wages of labour gra- 
dually fell, until it reached a point of the lowest depression ; 
it was, perhaps, from eightpence to a shilling a-day, at a 
time of a depreciated currency and extremely high prices. 
Wages, too, were generally paid not in money, but kind. The 
labourer, a peasant of the lowest degree, occupied a plot of 
land and a cabin at a rack rent, his miserable wages being 
set against this ; he was thus enabled barely to maintain 
life on the potato, which formed almost his only food. This 
cottar system, as it was called, had existed of old, but it had 
been extended to a great and dangerous degree. Masses of 
this wretched class, spread densely on the soil, a perishable 
root creating, so to speak, a bad truck system, and reducing 
them to the depths of poverty ; and the condition of the 
labouring peasant of Ireland had undergone a distinctly 
marked decline. 1 Society, however, was not violently dis- 
turbed, though there was much agrarian disorder and crime, 
as long as the war maintained high prices, and caused a 
large demand for agricultural products, but it was disorga- 
nised, nay, shaken to its foundations, when these conditions 
were completely changed after the Peace. There was a 
sudden and rapid collapse of rents often forced up to an 
unnatural rate ; a similar collapse of wages, wretched as 
these were ; hundreds of owners of land suffered immense 
losses, and hundreds of thousands of peasants were visited 
with severe distress, spreading over almost every part of 
Ireland, but especially trying in Connaught and the south 
of Munster. It was followed by a series of bad harvests, 
which made it terrible in six or seven counties. 

In these circumstances the economic and social state of 

1 Wakefield, who wrote in 1810-12, before the worst came, repeatedly 
asserts (vol. ii. pp. 718, 810 and in other places), that the wages of the 
Irish labouring class had greatly diminished from the time of Arthur 
Young, and that its position had become worse. See also Newen- 
ham's "View of Ireland," 1809, preface, pp. 17, 18. 


Ireland was rudely and generally troubled, and here and 
there was, so to speak, disjointed. The owners of the land 
acted as was to be expected from the class ; some made 
themselves conspicuous for deeds of charity, the great 
majority let things hopelessly drift, a small minority had 
recourse to harsh measures to remove the impoverished 
peasantry from the land. The process of ejection rapidly 
multiplied ; farmers and cottars were driven in hundreds 
from their homes ; scenes were witnessed like those beheld 
in England when, after the fall of the religious houses, the 
rural population was expelled from its seats. These evic- 
tions were often in themselves cruel, but they were made 
ruthlessly unjust in many instances, owing to a circum- 
stance of the first importance to be ever borne in mind 
with respect to the Irish land system. It is inevitable, 
under the small farm tenures which prevail in Ireland, that 
the occupier makes the improvements on his farm, he 
" creates," as has been said, " its equipment." This still 
is the case in many countries, and was the case in England 
in places, even in the seventeenth century. 1 But as a 
consequence of these additions to the soil the Irish tenant 
had, even in those days, acquired in thousands of cases a 
concurrent right in his farm, occasionally ascending to a 
kind of joint ownership. This had been noticed by Burke 
many years before ; with the prescience of genius he had 
foretold that trouble would be the result if this right 
was not properly supported by law, and he had indicated 
how it should be protected and fitted into the existing 
modes of land tenure. 2 Unquestionably, in the great mass 
of instances, the owners of land in Ireland had respected 
this right, for otherwise, indeed, it could not have grown 
up, and in a large part of Ulster it had become estab- 
lished and recognised as the farmer's peculium by long- 
settled usage. It was nowhere, however, sanctioned by 
law, and in the southern provinces it was not even 

1 This is alluded to more than once in dramas after the Restoration. 

2 See a most remarkable passage in Burke's " Tracts on the Popery 
Laws." Works, ed. 1834, vol. i. pp. 445-446. 

88 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

acknowledged to be an incident of the tenant's possession. 
When, therefore, evictions were carried out wholesale, and 
numbers of peasant families were dispossessed, the right 
was often most unjustly extinguished ; and what really was 
the property of an entire class was confiscated, in the name 
of law, without scruple or mercy. 

It is evident now what ought to have been the policy of 
the Legislature and the Government at this grave conjunc- 
ture. Famine and distress had been common events in 
Ireland ; but the Irish Parliament, we have said, had never 
passed a Poor Law to make property bear the charges of 
poverty, and to prevent the aggregation of a mass of 
wretchedness on the soil. The Parliament at Westminster 
was equally remiss at this time ; but it is fair to remark 
that not improbably the gross abuses of the English Poor 
Law, becoming intolerable after the war, may have been the 
cause that a measure of the kind was not applied to Ireland. 
The rights of the tenant class, as regards improvements, 
ought to have been placed under the safeguard of law and 
made indefeasible by ejectment, but this was not in accord 
with the ideas of the time ; according to these tenant right 
would be landlords wrong, a mischievous shibboleth of 
another day. A different, nay an opposite policy was pur- 
sued, unhappily in the highest degree unjust. The law of 
ejectment was simplified and made very cheap, and local 
courts were employed to pronounce judgments, by means 
of which peasants were evicted from their homes in 
hundreds, and their property in their holdings was torn 
from them. The system of coercion, too, was employed to 
carry out these wrongs ; insurrection acts, and the harsh 
machinery of force, were vigorously plied to vindicate the 
supposed rights of landlords. The consequences were 
what was to be expected, agrarian disorder had been rife 
in Ireland before ; societies of " Threshers," as they were 
called, had been formed to resist the payment of tithes, 
a growing burden since the increase of tillage. Agrarian 
disorder had previously burst out, and continued during a 
series of years ; it steadily followed the track of eviction as 


rebellion had followed the track of confiscation of old ; 
Whiteboyism and Ribbonism universally coalesced, and 
at the bidding of secret societies landlords and their agents 
were shot, the houses of rich men burned, and atrocities of 
many kinds done. The law of the land was tainted with 
evil, it came in conflict with a barbarous social law, which, 
as O'Connell said, " executed the wild justice of revenge." 

The Duke of Richmond had been succeeded by Lord 
Whitworth, our ambassador to France, after the Peace of 
Amiens, and by Lord Talbot, a mere noble name ; the real 
governor of Ireland from 181 2 to 1818 was Peel. His 
conduct in office marked, to some extent, if not a change, a 
turn in Irish affairs. Peel was made Chief Secretary at the 
age of twenty-four ; he had been covered, by Oxford, with 
her honours ; he was looked up to in his family as a rising 
Pitt ; he soon distinguished himself in the House of 
Commons. He was associated, however, with the narrow 
Toryism which was the faith of the Liverpool Ministry ; he 
went to Ireland, as to an unknown land, with the prejudices 
of a Tory of the great commercial class of England. He 
became a formidable opponent, we have seen, of the Catholic 
claims ; and though he was far too able a man not to dis- 
countenance Orangeism and its lawless spirit, he was true to 
the Protestant Ascendency which he found supreme. He 
considered Ireland, too, from a purely English point of 
view, without sympathy with Irish feeling, with no real 
knowledge of Irish needs or wants ; and he carried out a 
policy in many respects unfortunate. Like his predecessors, 
he made a free use of repression, and extended it to social 
mischiefs which it could not remedy ; he steadily upheld 
the rights of landlords, even when these were morally unjust, 
he gave his sanction to the cheap law of ejectment, the source 
of manifold and most crying evils. He had no insight at 
this time into the ills of Ireland, and dealt with them accord- 
ing to a bad system of routine ; and he quarrelled with 
O'Connell and denounced the Catholic Board as a mere nest 
of sedition. Peel, however, gave proof of his great capacity 
as an administrator at the Castle in these years. He tried, 

9o IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

and not without success, to put a check on the scandalous 
jobbing of the Irish public service ; from this time forward we 
hear less of Irish corruption. The reform in Ireland, how- 
ever, then chiefly connected with his name, was the institu- 
tion, in disturbed districts, of a central police force under 
paid magistrates, replacing an ineffective local police and 
the bodies of troops often engaged in this service. This was 
the origin of the Irish Constabulary and of its present system, 
one of the most admirable instruments that could be formed 
to maintain order and law, and a powerful agency in Irish 
social progress. 1 

As we look back at the dismal tale of coercion, of wrong, 
of mistakes, of failures which marked Irish administration 
long after the Union, we are tempted to ask what efforts 
were made by Grattan and his followers to redress these 
grievances. But we must recollect the tendencies of the 
day and the precedents set by the Irish Parliament ; English 
Toryism, too, prevailed in the Imperial Houses, and many 
Englishmen found seats from Ireland in the House of 
Commons, the nominees of families still possessing Irish 
borough influence, which they carried to the market of 
British politics. The Irish representation, in a word, was 
filled with a half-foreign element, as O'Connell often pointed 
out and condemned ; yet the House of Commons was not 
without a small, but very able body of distinguished Irish- 
men, the supporters of their illustrious leader. The names 
of Ponsonby, of Parnell, of Tighe, of Hutchinson, and 
especially of Sir John Newport, a master of Irish finance and 
commerce, are still remembered as chiefs of this party ; they 
repeatedly made a determined stand against Irish mis- 
government and the coercive system. They were, however, 
a handful only, and their voices were overborne by large 
majorities, and too often by the voices of their own country- 
men, champions of Protestant Ascendency, and all that this 
implied. It deserves notice that, at this period, the wrongs of 
Ireland were more than once set forth and denounced from 

1 The Irish Correspondence of Peel, edited by Mr. Parker, should be 


the Irish judicial bench. The fearless independence of 
Judges Fox and Fletcher, in this matter, should be placed on 
record, and if another judge, Johnson, was far from discreet, 
his " Letters of Juverna " contain much truth. These 
eminent men incurred the wrath of the Castle, and two were 
persecuted unjustly with shameless severity. 

George IV. visited Ireland in 1821 ; he was the only King 
of England since Richard II. who had appeared in the island 
save as an enemy, but he received an enthusiastic welcome 
in the capital ; if the first gentleman of Europe, he shed no 
honour on the Crown, and the trial of Queen Caroline had 
but lately ended. The Mayor and Aldermen of Dublin, 
before denounced as " a beggarly Corporation " by the great 
Irish tribune, joined with O'Connell and his followers in a 
tumultuous greeting ; the streets were dense with exulting 
crowds, and decked out as for a national holiday, the 
festivities of an overflowing Court were splendid. The 
spectacle aroused the indignant wrath of Byron, but it had 
not the less a significance of its own. Too much has often 
been made of pageants of this kind ; but attachment to 
persons rather than to institutions has always been a 
characteristic of the Celtic races, and chiefs and kings are 
objects of their peculiar sympathy. How little, however, an 
effusion of sentiment like this had, spite of the predictions of 
hired writers, to do with the alleviation of the ills of Ireland, 
or with reaching the sources of Irish feeling was made but 
too manifest in a few months. The harvest of 1822 very 
generally failed, and the distress of Ireland, which had been 
acute, became a destructive famine in several large districts. 
Hundreds of victims perished in the absence of a Poor Law, 
thousands were brought to the awful verge of starvation, as 
the natural result agrarian crime became more than ever 
widespread and atrocious. The Government made no 
attempt to remove the causes of these deep-seated and most 
grave evils, coercion was administered with extreme harsh- 
ness, evictions multiplied to a portentous extent. But 
Parliament voted a sum of half-a-million sterling, in aid of 
wretchedness where it was most trying, and British charity 

92 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

flowed in freely, as it was to flow in far more largely on a 
still worse occasion. And what was infinitely more im- 
portant, the mind of England was awakened to the condition 
of Ireland for the first time, it may be said, since the Union. 
A Parliamentary Committee sat in 1824-5 and collected 
valuable and most striking evidence, on what may be called 
the Irish Question, in its different parts, and especially on 
the state of the destitute peasantry. 1 This forms, by many 
degrees, the best account of the social and economic 
position of Ireland during the first quarter of the present 

The Irish Catholic Question had, meanwhile, been making 
way by degrees in English opinion. The mantle of Grattan 
had fallen on Plunket ; that great lawyer and orator brought 
the subject forward in the early part of the Session of 1821. 
His speech was, in the main, a reply to the great speech 
of Peel made in 18 17 ; it was marked by his close logic and 
severe eloquence, it was one of the finest displays ever made 
in Parliament. Plunket urged most of the topics dwelt on 
by Grattan, but the best passages perhaps in this noble effort 
were those in which he showed that Catholics had laid the 
foundations of our ancient and free monarchy, and that it 
was monstrous to charge Catholicism, as such, with hatred 
of England and of English liberty. Peel acknowledged that 
his opponent "had torn to pieces" the web of his argu- 
ment of four years before, and that Plunket was " worthy to 
wield the arms of the dead Achilles " ; in the House of 
Commons the Resolutions moved by Plunket had a small 
majority of votes. Bills, however, of like tenor, were 
rejected in the House of Lords, the first of several defeats of 
the kind ; and as they contained provisions savouring of 
the Veto ; they were repudiated by O'Connell and the Irish 

1 I quote a few words from O'Connell' s description of the Irish poor 
(Evidence, p 10.) : "They have no clothes to change ; they have none 
but what they wear at the moment. . . . Their food consists of potatoes 
and water during the greater part of the year ; potatoes and sour milk 
during another portion ; they use some salt with their potatoes when they 
have nothing but water." No formal report was made, but the evidence 
should be carefully perused. 


priesthood. Yet the decision of the House of Commons was 
not fruitless ; a change passed over the Liverpool Ministry, 
Lord Wellesley, a staunch advocate of the Catholic claims, 
was sent to Ireland as Lord-Lieutenant ; Plunket was made 
one of his chief law officers ; the system of Protestant 
Ascendency received a shock ; Orangeism, especially, was 
discountenanced at the Castle. Up to this time, neverthe- 
less, the Catholic cause had lost strength, apparently, from 
year to year, in Ireland. O'Connell, indeed, had toiled to 
keep agitation up, but the Veto had, we have seen, divided 
the Irish Catholics ; the period of distress from 1815 to 1822 
had depressed the country and proved a palsying spell ; 
the " Catholic Board " had been dissolved, the " aggregate 
meetings" had almost ceased. The Hour, however, had come, 
and it was to find the Man who was to become, as he was 
rightly called, the " Liberator " of Catholic Ireland, and to 
win for it the freedom too long withheld. In 1823 O'Connell 
and a few adherents — the principal of these was Richard 
Lalor Sheil, a young lawyer of extraordinary rhetorical power 
— founded the last of the organisations formed to uphold 
the still unsuccessful Catholic cause, the Catholic Associa- 
tion, ere long destined to gain for that cause a wonderful 
triumph, nay, to become a portent in the political world. 1 
The object of O'Connell was to concentrate an irresistible 
force of Irish opinion — like that of the Volunteers of 1782 
— which would wring from a still reluctant Parliament the 
concession of the Catholic claims, free from the condition 
to which he had always objected. The most obvious way 
to effect this was to establish a Committee in Dublin with 
local committees throughout the country ; but the Con- 
vention Act stood, we have seen, in the way ; it was 
necessary to give this expedient up. The skilled lawyer, a 
past master of the devices of his craft, set up in the capital 
a kind of club, composed of members paying an annual 
sum, and formed to "discuss the Catholic claims," to 

1 Wyse's " History of the Catholic Association " is rather a good book. 
Wyse, however, inclined to the policy of the Veto, and was not 
enthusiastic for O'Connell. 

94 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

" present petitions" in their behalf to Parliament, and to 
"procure subscriptions" in aid of the cause. This, however, 
could not accomplish much ; to carry out his purpose 
O'Connell turned to the Irish priesthood, his loyal allies, 
and relied on their influence over their devoted flocks. 
This great body of men had completely changed from what 
they had been before the Union, submissive children of the 
old Church of France, or of Spain, ready to bow the knee 
to established power ; they were chiefly composed of sons 
of the large Irish farmers ; Maynooth had filled them with 
Irish sympathies ; they had no cause to reverence British 
rule ; they had been irritated by a system of proselytising, 
which had found support at the Castle. Their Church, too, 
had acquired increased influence ; and while they remained 
devoted to their faith, they had imbibed the liberal philo- 
sophy of the eighteenth century, and as one of their most 
eminent prelates wrote, had "read Locke and Paley as 
well as Bellarmine," and cared " more for the principles of 
freedom," than for the " Divine Right of Kings." They 
were fitting instruments for a great popular movement ; 
O'Connell adjured them, in impassioned language, to com- 
bine in an effort to promote the Catholic cause, and to 
exert their immense spiritual power in its behalf. Catholic 
Emancipation was to be a religious faith preached at the 
altars of a thousand parishes ; it was to be demanded in the 
name of God, to be the object of a general crusade ; and, 
at the same time, a " Catholic Rent " was to be collected by 
the emissaries of the priesthood, far and near, and to create 
funds for the temporal purposes, which O'Connell foresaw* 
might have momentous results. The chief of these were 
to contest elections, to multiply petitions in favour of the 
Catholic claims, to subsidise a local Catholic Press, and, 
above all, to protect the downtrodden peasantry from the 
wrongs to which they were day by day subject. Harsh 
landlords were to be exposed and denounced ; Orange 
magistrates were to be bearded on the Bench ; especially all 
that legal ingenuity could do was to be employed to baffle 
and defeat evictions. 


The movement, inaugurated in this way, showed but 
faint signs of existence for a time. By degrees, however, 
it acquired speed and force ; in two years it had gained 
immense volume. Lord Killeen, a son of the Fingall of 
the days of Pitt, became one of O'Connell's adherents ; 
most of the leading Catholic gentry concurred ; if the 
Catholic Association was not openly joined by Liberal 
Protestants of the school of Grattan — an order of men 
O'Connell had always tried to win * — they cordially sup- 
ported the Catholic claims. The policy of the Veto was 
cast to the winds ; the Catholic Association became a really 
great power, spreading its authority over all parts of the 
country ; O'Connell went on progresses through Ireland, 
haranguing, agitating, addressing huge multitudes, often 
pleading the cause of the Catholic peasant, without reward, 
in the courts of justice. The chief work, however, was 
done by the priesthood ; they assumed the attitude of the 
Confederates of 1643 ; in the name of the faith pledged 
their dependent flocks to make the demands of the Catholic 
Association their own ; united them, in a word, to a great, 
almost an universal, movement by appeals to feelings that 
stir the Catholic heart. Meanwhile their trusty agents got 
in the Catholic Rent ; the pence given by the millions of a 
people in distress, rose to hundreds, nay, thousands of 
pounds a week ; and these sums were applied to the uses 
marked out by O'Connell. Of these none had such a 
potent effect as the war waged on unjust landlords and 
magistrates, and against evictions. The peasantry felt, at 
last, they had a chance of protection, iniquitous acts and 
decisions from the Bench were held up to execration and 
often frustrated ; the plague of depopulation, in the local 
courts, was stayed in hundreds of instances by skilful 
lawyers. Owing to this fortunate change, and also because 
O'Connell earnestly denounced crime, and the priesthood 

1 O'Connell thus referred to the Liberal Protestants of his time, 
before the Committee of 1824-5 : — "A Liberal Protestant is an object 
of great affection and regard from the entire Catholic population " 
(p. 70). 

96 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

faithfully echoed his words, " avoid outrages, they only 
help your enemies," agrarian disorder almost ceased in 
Ireland, in fact the energies and passions of the Irish 
Catholic were absorbed in furthering a cause sacred to him 
and patriotic alike. The movement, we should add, gained 
increasing strength, as the country, though very slowly, 
began to revive after the severe trials it had lately gone 

The power of the Catholic Association had become 
formidable in the extreme by the Session of 1825. The 
Club had grown into a mighty League ; its mandates were 
obeyed throughout Ireland ; it collected what may be called 
a revenue ; it maintained order and law by its local agents ; 
it formed an irregular Government supplanting the rule of 
the Castle, through a wide circle of social relations. " Self- 
elected," said Canning, in the House of Commons, " self- 
constructed, self-assembled, self-adjourned, acknowledging 
no superior, tolerating no equal, interfering at all stages 
with the administration of justice, denouncing publicly 
before trial individuals against whom it institutes prose- 
cutions, rejudging and condemning those whom the law 
has acquitted, menacing the free press with punishment, 
and openly declaring its intention to corrupt that part 
which it could not intimidate, and, lastly, levying a con- 
tribution on the people of Ireland — was this an association 
which the House could tolerate ?" The Association, how- 
ever, had not violated any existing law ; a special statute, 
called by O'Connell, "the Algerine Act," passed rapidly 
through Parliament, in order to put it down. But the 
great agitator easily broke through this legal net ; as he 
boasted, " he drove a coach and six " through the Act of 
Parliament ; the Association reappeared in a somewhat 
altered form ; it never lost for a moment its hold on the 
people. The Liberal party at Westminster at least felt that 
the movement could not be stopped by these means ; Sir 
Francis Burdett brought forward Resolutions, translated 
into a Bill, dealing with the main parts of the Catholic 
Question ; and this, in spite of an earnest protest of Peel, 


was carried in the House of Commons by a small majority. 
A remarkable proof was soon afforded of O'Connell's 
moderation and statesmanlike views. The triumph of the 
Catholic cause, he felt, could not be long deferred ; yet he 
gave his assent to what were called, "the wings of this 
measure " — one of emancipation in no doubtful sense — that 
is, to a provision for the Catholic clergy to be made by the 
State, an object he had always had at heart, and to the 
disfranchisement of the peasant masses, known by the name 
of the forty-shilling freeholders, and in no sense independent 
voters. The course of Irish History, in after years, might 
have been very different had the Bill of 1825 become law; 
Parliament would have conceded the Catholic claims of its 
own authority, and with proper safeguards ; " a secret of 
state," in the words of the Roman historian, would not 
"have been divulged that supreme power could be super- 
seded in its own seat." r The measure, however, was 
rejected by the House of Lords after an intemperate speech 
made by the Duke of York, the heir to the throne. 

This irritating, but indecisive defeat, only moved 
O'Connell to make redoubled efforts. The influence of 
the Association became stronger than ever ; its chief made 
appeals to Catholic France, some eminent Frenchmen 
responding to his call ; he sent messages to the Irish in the 
United States, becoming already a growing power ; he 
advocated the Repeal of the Test Act, and endeavoured to 
win the English Dissenters to his side. The authority of 
the Association was made even more manifest at the 
General Election of 1826. The Catholic Rent was, in part, 
employed in providing for a series of contests ; in the 
counties of Waterford, of Louth, of Westmeath, of Mona- 
ghan, seats were wrested from great Ascendency Houses, 
and Liberal Protestants returned in their stead ; the priests 
became zealous electioneering agents ; symptoms appeared 
of the defection of Catholic voters from their lords. This 
success, however, was but the prelude to a more signal, 

1 Tacitus, " Hist." 1.4," Evulgato Imperii arcano posse Principem alibi 
quam Romas fieri." 


98 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

and as it was to prove, a final triumph. Canning, always 
the advocate of the Irish Catholic cause, passed away 
deserted by his late colleagues ; the Wellington administra- 
tion came into power ; and Wellington and Peel, the 
leader of the Government in the House of Commons, were 
steadfast opponents of the Catholic claims, Peel especially 
being O'Connell's avowed enemy. In the summer of 1828, 
Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald accepted office ; he vacated his seat 
for his native county, Clare ; but his re-election was con- 
sidered certain at Downing Street, and by the men at the 
Castle. Fitzgerald's father had been a distinguished lawyer, 
who had opposed the Union, and been a friend of Grattan ; 
he was himself a supporter of the Catholic cause ; he was 
one of the foremost of the Liberal Irish Protestants. But 
the juncture was critical, and O'Connell had resolved to 
prove what the Catholic Association could do ; even against 
the entreaties of Lord John Russell, a rising leader of the 
English Whigs, he, though reluctantly, made up his mind 
to contest the seat, in person, with the nominee of the 
Government. The events that followed are still remem- 
bered ; they decided the issue of the Catholic Question. 
The landed gentry of Clare flung themselves into Fitz- 
gerald's cause ; they resented the intrusion of a strange 
lawyer, thrust upon them by an alien and threatening 
power ; they demanded, as a matter of course, their votes 
from the tenants on their estates ; they were convinced 
that their forty-shilling freeholders would be submissive as 
of old. But the Association had sent its orders out ; the 
priests of Clare called on their flocks, in every parish, to go 
to the poll for O'Connell, in the name of God ; the altar, it 
was said, was arrayed against the landlord's hall. The forty- 
shilling freeholders threw off the yoke ; they defied their 
superiors, and declared for " the Liberator " to a man ; 
O'Connell was returned by a large majority, though, as a 
Catholic, he could not take his seat in Parliament. It 
was thought an ominous sign that he was enthusiastically 
cheered by a detachment of Irish soldiers on the spot. 
The revolt of the forty-shilling freeholders became at 


once general ; the ties that had bound the peasant to his 
lord snapped ; Protestant Ascendency had received a notable 
defeat ; the power of the Castle was greatly weakened ; 
O'Connell was the virtual master of Catholic Ireland. 
Protestant Ireland, too, had undergone a change, especially 
among the higher landed gentry ; the fury of Orangeism 
indeed blazed out, partly in crime, partly in fanatical wrath ; 
but there had been a growing sympathy with the Catholic 
cause ; an overwhelming majority of Irish Protestants, of 
the better classes, pronounced in its favour. A great 
meeting was held in Dublin, compared by the Catholic 
historian of the movement to those of the Volunteers in 
1782-3 ; * the Duke of Leinster and the leading men of 
the Irish peerage was at its head ; it declared that the time 
for Catholic Emancipation had come. The significance of 
events was not lost on Peel ; anti-Catholic as ever, he 
wrote that concessions must be made ; Wellington con- 
curred confessedly against his will ; he was " alarmed 
about an attack on Irish rents " ; " the position," he felt, 
"was no longer tenable." It soon transpired that a great 
measure of Catholic relief was being prepared, and that by 
a Government before most adverse ; the indignation of the 
ruling classes of England was intense, and, indeed, spread 
through the whole nation. George IV. tried to find another 
Addington in vain ; the Tory party protested, not without 
reason, that it was unconstitutional, in the highest degree, 
for a Tory Ministry to adopt this policy ; Oxford rejected 
her favourite son, Peel, who had sought her suffrages as 
a test of opinion ; the middle classes were puzzled and 
vexed ; even the Dissenters threw over their great Irish 
advocate. The large majority of Englishmen, in fact, 
resented the defeat of the Legislature and the Government 
by what they deemed to be a subject and inferior race. 
The sentiment, too, was in the main true ; Catholic 
Emancipation, no doubt, would, in the long run, have 
become law ; but the immediate victory was due to 

1 Wyse, " History of the Catholic Association," vol. ii. pp. 41, 44. 

ioo IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

O'Connell, to the Catholic Association, and to the Clare 
Election. 1 

The measure designed to settle the Irish Catholic Question 
was brought forward in the Session of 1829. The speeches 
of the heads of the Government were unfortunate ; Welling- 
ton avowed that he was yielding, and yielding only because 
he was afraid of civil war in Ireland ; his attitude was 
peremptory, harsh, unbending. Peel, more versed in Parlia- 
mentary arts, was plausible, dexterous, but unsympathetic ; 
he dwelt on the progress of the Catholic cause in England 
from 1800 to 1825 ; he pointed out that the time had 
passed for half liberty for the Irish Catholics ; " we have 
removed with our own hands the seal from the vessel 
in which a mighty spirit was enclosed ; but like the genius 
in the fable it will not return to its narrow confines, and 
enable us to cast it forth to the obscurity from which we 
evoked it " ; there was really no alternative between Catholic 
Emancipation and a return to the Penal Code. He was, 
doubtless, in a very trying position ; he had to recant 
professions he had made for years in the presence of 
angry and deceived followers ; but he might have spoken 
of Ireland in a kindly spirit, and concealed his evident 
antipathy to the Catholic cause. The policy of the Ministry 
was, however, carried out, spite of vehement opposition 
in both Houses, largely through the aid of the English 
Whigs ; the restrictions maintained in 1793 were removed 
with scarcely a single exception ; the Irish Catholic was 
at last admitted fully within the Pale of the State, and 
was placed on all but the same level of rights as the 
Protestant. Catholic Emancipation, however, itself many 
years too late, was not accompanied by its proper supple- 
ments ; no provision was made for the Irish Catholic clergy, 

1 Greville, an admirable observer, and moving in the highest society 
of the day, describes graphically ("Memoirs," vol. i. chap, v.) the 
indignation of the King and the English aristocracy. Of the effects of 
O'Connell's agitation he significantly says (p. 172), " If the Irish Catholics 
had not brought matters to this pass by agitation and association, 
things might have remained as they were for ever." 


Peel especially insisting on this ; above all there was no 
commutation of the tithe, a reform advocated by Grattan 
and Pitt forty years before, and the necessity of which 
had been long apparent. The Catholic Association was 
at the same time proscribed, and the forty-shilling free- 
holders deprived of their votes, measures advisable no 
doubt, but hardly expedient as parts of a great scheme 
of remedial policy. The worst feature, however, of the 
Act was this : O'Connell was not permitted to retain his 
seat for Clare, a mischievous prohibition savouring of petty 

Catholic Emancipation had been thus accomplished ; 
no one will now deny that the Irish Catholic was entitled 
to an equality of rights in the State ; nor was the measure 
itself without good results ; it raised a subject people to 
a higher position ; it may have saved Ireland from grave 
social disasters. But Catholic Emancipation had been 
retarded for a whole generation of man ; it had been 
achieved under the worst conditions ; it was a trophy of 
agitation, not the free gift of justice ; it was a half measure 
marked with distrust and aversion. That it has had bene- 
ficent fruits may be admitted ; in any case it could not 
have been long delayed ; but it has been attended, at 
least, with a train of evils. It shook, in England, con- 
fidence in her leading men ; precipitated the Reform of 
1832, with its revolutionary and wild excesses ; gave the 
Constitution a heavy blow ; made mere agitation an 
immense force in politics ; above all, brought into the 
Legislature an alien, and often a hostile element which 
has powerfully affected, and often for the worse, the 
conduct of Parliament and the administration of the State. 
Conservative and Protestant England has, during the last 
seventy years, been compelled over and over again to 
bow to the will of Democratic and Catholic Ireland ; 
her legislation, her government, nay, her very fortunes 
have, on many occasions, been shaped by an influence 
assuredly not for her true interests. Catholic Emancipation 
has been attended in Ireland with consequences in many 

102 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

respects unfortunate, and has been productive of grave 
and permanent mischiefs. Carried as it was by a violent 
popular movement, the champions of which were O'Connell 
and an ambitious priesthood, it so weakened the power of 
the Irish landed gentry that this has, subsequently, been 
all but destroyed ; it placed in their stead a body of men, 
devoted to their Church, but disliking England, her rule in 
Ireland, and the existing order of things, and it invested 
them with far too great an authority. It, in a word, shook 
property and the whole upper class in Ireland, and has 
ultimately undermined the foundations of the State ; and 
though this certainly was not O'Connell's purpose, the 
agitation he promoted has had these results. But Catholic 
Emancipation has done more ; it has lowered the Irish re- 
presentation in a remarkable degree ; it has almost banished 
Irishmen of independence and parts from Parliament ; it 
has introduced into it a large number of men, largely the 
instruments of an alien Church and power, with no capacity 
for legislation of a rational kind, but hostile to England 
and the Protestant name, and chiefly intent on turning 
things upside down in Ireland, in order to effect the 
Revolution which is their ultimate object. How different 
would the results have been had Catholic Emancipation 
been accomplished in time, under happy auspices, and with 
the required supplements ! 

The first thirty years of the present century form a 
chequered passage in Irish history. The severest repression 
was sometimes unwisely exercised ; Protestant Ascendency 
acquired increased power for a time ; Orangeism was 
more developed, with its many evils ; the Catholic cause 
was, unhappily, long put back ; Emancipation, if an act of 
justice, was obtained by methods that must be regretted, 
and without securities the State should have had, and 
effected as it was, was followed by ills that have had 
their influence on Great Britain and Ireland alike. There 
was much misgovernment and maladministration besides ; 
many of the social evils of Ireland were disregarded and 
even made worse by law ; and in the absence of a 


and Irish faction increased. Yet the circumstances of the 
time must be kept in sight ; Ireland was a thorn in the 
side of England during many of these years ; she re- 
mained a scene of disorder and source of constant trouble. 
On the other hand, Protestant Ulster in this period 
became attached to England, a sentiment that has 
ever since deepened ; notwithstanding a season of dire 
distress, Ireland, on the whole, made material progress ; 
and as the harsh and selfish spirit of the time declined, 
England turned to Ireland with kindness and even 
sympathy especially in the trial of 1822-3. Tory Govern- 
ment was now passing away in Great Britain ; the country 
was eager for large reforms ; in Ireland Protestant Ascen- 
dency had been hardly stricken ; Catholic Emancipation 
had produced a new order of things ; a great change had 
passed over the whole community ; and Ireland, too, was 
in need of large reforms, political and social, under these 
conditions. How she was to fare in the era about to open ; 
with a representation in Parliament largely transformed, 
with some statesmen indifferent or hostile to her, with many 
anxious to rule her well, but not familiar with her social 
condition, or with the requirements this needed, dealing 
too with a community very dissimilar to their own ; and 
what her fortunes were to be in the shock of parties, and 
when a great and dominant nation was in a state of change 
— the coming years were ere long to show. 



Catholic Emancipation not carried out in Ireland — O'Connell agitates 
against the Union — Failure of the agitation — Peel's great speech 
on the Union — The Irish Reform Act — The system of National 
Education in Ireland — The Tithe War — Severe measure of 
repression — Reform of the Established Church in Ireland — 
Proposal of O'Connell — Ten Sees extinguished — The Tithe 
Question — The Appropriation Clause — Resignation of Stanley and 
three of his colleagues — The episode of Littleton and O'Connell — 
Fall of the Grey Government — Retrospect of its Irish policy — 
The first Melbourne Government — A Tithe Commutation Bill re- 
jected by the House of Lords — The first government of Peel — 
Another Commutation Bill — Peel defeated on a Resolution for 
appropriation — Alliance between the Whigs and O'Connell — 
Emancipation made a reality — Improvement of the Irish Con- 
stabulary force and other reforms — Protestant Ascendency and 
Orangeism discountenanced — Good results — Thomas Drummond 
— The Tithe commuted but without appropriation — The Irish Poor 
law — Reform of the Irish Corporations — The Melbourne Govern- 
ment unpopular in England — O'Connell's conduct contributes to 
this — Fall of the Melbourne Government — The second Administra- 
tion of Peel — O'Connell revives the movement against the Union — 
His efforts for a time fail — The movement gradually acquires 
strength — The Young Ireland party — The monster meetings — 
Attitude of O'Connell — The movement attracts great attention 
abroad — Policy of Peel — The Clontarf meeting stopped — Arrest 
and trial of O'Connell — The sentence reversed in the House of 
Lords — Vacillation of O'Connell — Decline of his power — The move- 
ment collapses. 

Catholic Emancipation broke up the Tory party, and 
was a chief cause of the fall of the Wellington Ministry. 

During the three years that followed, England was in the 



throes of the great movement for the Reform of Parliament; 
the dynasty of the Bourbons was driven from the throne ; a 
destructive plague swept over these islands. The affairs of 
Ireland could not engross attention, and yet they had 
become of no small importance. Catholic Emancipation 
was obviously an incomplete measure ; it was above all 
essential that it should be carried out in a liberal and 
sympathetic spirit. The Irish Catholic had been made 
eligible to all offices in the State, except that of the 
Lord-Lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor. Protestant 
Ascendency had, in theory, been replaced by religious 
equality. But the change, marked as it was, could not 
quickly remove that ascendency from the positions in which 
it had long been entrenched in Irish government and 
administration, or give the Catholic the privileges, in fact, 
enjoyed by the Protestant ; the liberation of Catholic 
Ireland, therefore, should, as far as possible, have been made 
effective and manifest. An opposite policy was adopted ; 
the consequences were, in no doubtful sense, unfortunate. 
The Wellington Government made no attempt to provide 
I for the Irish Catholic clergy, or to bring about a 
commutation of the tithe, measures more than ever 
necessary at this time ; the Government of Lord Grey were 
equally remiss. It was even less excusable that no effort 
was made to give Catholic Emancipation a real existence. 
The Wellington Administration unwisely refused to raise 
O'Connell to the rank of King's Counsel ; the Emancipation 
Act remained all but a dead letter. Nor was the Grey 
Government of Ireland formed to attract or conciliate Irish 
Catholic policy. O'Connell was treated with marked 
neglect ; scarcely an Irish Catholic received an official 
place ; the class was excluded from the magistracy and 
local affairs, almost as rigidly as had been the case before. 
Lord Wellesley had been replaced by Lord Anglesey, whose 
successor had been the Duke of Northumberland ; Grey 
had made Lord Anglesey Lord-Lieutenant again, and the 
brilliant soldier was a friend of Catholic Ireland. But the 
real governor of Ireland was the Chief Secretary, Stanley, 

106 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

the celebrated Lord Derby of another day, still remembered 
as the " Rupert of debate." Stanley had great parts and a 
gallant spirit ; but he was dictatorial, imprudent, sometimes 
reckless ; he was ill fitted for a very difficult and delicate 
post. Like Peel, he was soon at daggers drawn with 
O'Connell, who gave him the nickname of " Scorpion 
Stanley," an epithet not wholly undeserved. 

In this position of affairs O'Connell recurred to the policy 
of his early manhood, which, apparently, he had abandoned 
for years ; he endeavoured to rally Ireland in a movement 
against the Union. It is idle to say that personal slights 
were his only motive, though probably these were not 
without effect ; it is difficult to deny his sincerity, am- 
biguous as was his subsequent conduct. He may well have 
argued from recent events that justice for Ireland could not 
be obtained from a Parliament at Westminster and men in 
power in Downing Street ; the great triumph he had won 
had been nearly fruitless ; its practical results had been next 
to nothing. Nor were his prospects of success apparently 
hopeless ; the Tories, the heirs of Pitt, had been reduced to 
impotence ; Grey and the Whigs had strenuously opposed 
the Union ; men still living remembered the Revolution of 
1782 ; the Union was a comparatively new settlement ; 
Catholic Belgium had just been detached from Protestant 
Holland. O'Connell again appealed to the priesthood and 
to his followers in the agitation of late years ; he held public 
meetings and addressed large multitudes ; he tried to put in 
force once more the powerful machinery which had wrought 
wonders from 1825 to 1829. But even in Ireland his efforts 
did not accomplish much ; the energies of the great mass of 
the Irish Catholics were devoted, at this time, to a different 
cause ; the Catholics of England angrily held aloof, and 
the leading men of Catholic Ireland ; the Liberal Irish 
Protestants, who had declared for Emancipation to a man, 
fell away from him and pronounced for the Union. In 
England and Scotland opinion did not hesitate ; Grey and 
the Whig and Radical party were quite as determined to 
maintain the Union and to oppose its repeal as the Tory 


adherents of Peel and Wellington. Parliament was all but 
unanimous on the subject. Meanwhile the great tribune 
had for once failed in his cunning attempts to baffle the law. 
He had had recourse to his earlier methods ; as soon as 
one of the Associations he had formed was assailed, he 
reproduced it in another shape and name ; but the device 
proved in one instance vain — he was meshed, besides, in 
the net of the law of conspiracy. He pleaded guilty to part 
of the charges against him, and though he was never called 
up to receive sentence, his immense influence for a moment 
declined ; he was no longer invincible in the eyes of a 
credulous, ignorant, and easily led people, abounding in the 
weakness of the Celtic nature. 

In spite, however, of this rebuff, and though the agitation 
against the Union was swallowed up, so to speak, in other 
movements which kept Ireland in a state of disorder, 
O'Connell did not abandon the cause of Repeal for a time. 
He brought the question before the House of Commons , in 
th^SessiLQn^jof.«xSig4, on a motion for an inquiry into the 
means by which the Union had been accomplished, and as 
to its past and probable future effects. He must have felt 
that his labour would be thrown away ; but he was assured 
of the support of faithful followers, returned for Irish seats 
at his bidding, and that of the priesthood ; his " Tail," as it 
was now called, would certainly move with its Head. The 
speech he made was not one of his best, if a fair specimen 
of his research and his masculine eloquence. He dwelt on 
the doctrine that the Irish Parliament had no power to ex- 
tinguish itself; enlarged on the corrupt methods employed 
to destroy it ; insisted that its provisions were utterly unjust, 
and had done Ireland infinite wrong; and while he emphati- 
cally, and evidently from his heart, declared that he had no 
thought of separating his country from Great Britain, he 
demanded that its ancient Parliament should be restored. 
He was ably answered by Spring Rice, another distinguished 
Irishman, especially as regards financial and commercial 
details. Spring Rice conclusively proved that Ireland had 
made much material and even social progress since 1800. 

108 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

The most striking incident of the debate, however, was the 
really magnificent speech of Peel, to this day the ablest 
defence ever made of the Union. Peel, no doubt, showed 
no sympathy with Irish sentiment, as already had been the 
case with him ; he refused to dwell on the history of the 
Union; he considered the subject with reference to Imperial 
interests. But now he ascended to the high ground of 
principle, and threw plausibilities and after-thoughts away ; 
he emphatically declared that the Union must be main- 
tained, if England was not to sink into a third-rate Power. 
Absolute separation, he contended, was to be preferred to 
the half independence of Ireland under a Parliament of her 
own, constituted as this would be since the measure of 
1829. The passages in which he described the results of 
two legislatures in angry and repeated conflict, as, unlike 
what had happened from 1782 to 1800, would inevitably 
and unhappily be now the case, are really in a high strain 
of eloquence ; they are admirable alike in thought and 
expression. O'Connell's motion, it is scarcely necessary 
to say, was rejected by an immense majority ; it obtained 
the support of one English member only. 

The Grey Government had, long before this time, been 
engaged in projects of reform for Ireland. It was for a time 
doubtful — such was the state of the country — whether Ireland 
was to have Parliamentary Reform at all ; x the Bill that was 
ultimately introduced and carried had not much in common 
with the great Reform Act of 1832. The Irish representation 
was but little changed as regards the places that returned 
members ; the electoral franchise was placed at a high 
level ; and O'Connell endeavoured in vain to restore the 
forty-shilling freeholders to the position they had held before 
1829. The measure, in a word, was Conservative and re- 
strictive, though Ireland obtained five additional seats ; but 
it had the real merit that it did not attempt to treat a country, 
with a small, weak middle-class, and still extremely backward 

1 Lord Campbell (" Life," vol. ii. p. 7) wrote, " The common notion 
prevailing among Liberals in England is that Ireland is wholly in- 
capab e of laws and liberty and must be governed by the sword." 


in every sense, on the principles that were applied to Eng- 
land ; and political mischief was in some degree avoided. 
Landed property in Ireland was left with some influence 
for a time ; though the followers of O'Connell were be- 
coming numerous, they were not dominant in the repre- 
sentation as yet ; and several were able, moderate, and dis- 
guished men, such as Sheil, Wyse, the O'Conor Don, More 
O'Farrell, and others. Another and very important measure 
of the Grey Ministry was the establishment of Primary 
Education for the Irish community, on a system which 
had not been hitherto tried. In the period before the 
Union, we have said, Primary Education hardly existed 
in Ireland, as far at least as the State was concerned ; the 
Charter Schools had disgracefully failed ; the children of 
the Catholic millions, the great mass of the people, were 
left to acquire the rudiments in the " hedge schools," where 
they were miserably taught, and often learned what they 
should never have known. 1 A /Board of Education was 
formed in 1806-7 > Peel, when Chief Secretary, had turned 
his mind to Irish Education in its different branches ; but 
nothing really effective was done ; the times were not, in 
fact, propitious. Meanwhile the Evangelical movement of 
the day had, so to speak, invaded Catholic Ireland, and 
endeavoured to make a settlement in it ; several Societies, 
extremely Protestant in type, had been formed for the 
education of the Catholic poor ; and these, as may be 
supposed, laboured to make proselytes, to the intense 
indignation of the Irish priesthood, one of the reasons, 
we have said, that they joined O'Connell. These societies 
had only a short existence ; but they were followed by another 
society composed largely of distinguished Irishmen ; and 
this made a real and earnest effort to bring instruction home 
to the young of Catholic Ireland. The Kildare Place Society, 
as it was called, received considerable donations from the 
State, and was even countenanced by O'Connell ; but it 
required the Protestant Bible to be read in its schools ; and 

1 Among the school books were stories of celebrated highwaymen 
and the Memoirs of Faublas ! 

no IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

ultimately it became proselytising in its tendencies at least. 
It fell under the ban of the Irish Catholic clergy ; and as its 
schools had never been very numerous, the children of the 
humble classes of Catholic Ireland were abandoned, for the 
most part, to the " hedge schools." The primary schools of 
Protestant, and even of Presbyterian Ireland, were also, with 
rare exceptions, bad. i( 

Primary Education in Ireland therefore, when the Grey 
Government took up the question, was in a truly pitiable 
state, even more pitiable by far than was the case in England. 
The mass of the population still grew up in ignorance ; 
more than one half certainly could not read or write. A 
comprehensive system was inaugurated in 1,831 ; its principal 
author was Chief Secretary Stanley ; it has had a chequered 
history, but very important results. The objects of the 
Government were threefold : to provide a good education 
for the children of the poorer classes of every form of 
religion, at the charge of the State ; to guard against the 
proselytism which had been employed against the young of 
Catholic Ireland ; and ultimately to make education a means 
of reconciling the warring races and faiths of Ireland. The 
principles of the " National " sy stem, as it was named, were 
these : Schools were to be established in every part of 
Ireland to which the children of the poor might resort 
without subjecting the parents to any expense ; the in- 
struction to be imparted was to be secular and religious 
also ; " secular " instruction was to be given to the pupils 
together, by masters and mistresses appointed by the State ; 
but " religious " instruction was to be given in the schools, 
by the pastors of their respective communions, to the pupils 
carefully to be kept apart, according to their different modes 
of faith. We shall consider the working of the system after- 
wards, and when it became developed in large proportions ; 
enough to remark here, that, whatever may be alleged 
against it, and in whatever degree it has not attained its 
objects, it certainly was a great boon to Ireland, a change 
for the better in almost every respect, and that, from the 
first moment, it had some happy results. The National 



Schools spread quickly throughout the country, spite of 
opposition on many different grounds; they have multiplied 
in an extraordinary way ; they have brought within their 
scope an immense majority of the children of the humble 
classes of Ireland ; and, defective as they may be in many 
respects, they have unquestionably done incalculable good. 
The light of knowledge has dawned at last on a people sunk 
in the deep night of ignorance a century ago. 

Ireland, during these years, had been violently disturbed 
by a social movement, certainly the worst which had been 
witnessed since the Rebellion of 1798. The Established 
Church still continued to exact the tithe; feeble efforts at 
a composition of the charge had proved vain ; and as the 
small tillage farms of the peasantry had enormously 
increased, the burden of the impost had become more 
grievous and hateful. Many of the clergy, too, of the 
Evangelical school, earnest proselytisers, had pressed their 
, ; claims harshly ; two Prelates, at least, of the Irish Catholic 
Church denounced tithe in emphatic language ; and 
O'Connell and the great body of the Irish priesthood 
— they were indignant that no provision had been made for 
them — echoed the sentiment in a series of public meetings. 
The peasantry suddenly rose up in the Southern Provinces, 
and to a considerable extent in the North, in a wild move- 
ment against a tax they abhorred ; what is still remembered 
as the Tithe War raged for several years in a number of 
counties, and brought out all that is worst in the character 
of the Celt. The methods usually employed to resist the 
payment of the tithe were to allow a defaulter's goods to be 
seized, and to prevent a sale by intimidation of every kind ; 
this became a regular system in most parts of Ireland ; and 
the efforts of the law were wholly frustrated, the collection, 
it is said, of ;£i 2,000, costing the State nearly double that 
sum. But things often assumed a worse aspect; there were 
frequent collisions between the police and half -armed 
peasants ; blood was shed freely at Newtown Barry, 
Carrickshook, Rathcormac, and several other places. By 
degrees Whiteboyism, as it were, made the movement its 

H2 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

own ; secret societies backed the opposition to tithe, by 
assassination and horrible crimes ; a wave of general disorder 
swept over the country, more destructive than had been 
witnessed for years. Not less than nine thousand offences 
of the Whiteboy type were committed in the space of a few 
months ; and the well-known symptoms of conspiracies of 
this class appeared in the terrorising of juries, attacks on 
magistrates, and attempts to paralyse the administration 
of the law. Runs on banks, and what has since been 
known as the base crime of " boycotting" were also 
common ; whole districts, in a word, became scenes of 
appalling disorder. O'Connell and the priesthood, it should 
be observed, had, unlike what had happened a few years 
before, been unable to control or direct the movement, 
or to keep its barbarous excesses under. 

It is to be regretted, no doubt, that in too many instances, 
the law of the land, and that for ages, was the enemy of the 
Irish Catholic, and that he has too often been driven, in 
self defence, to resort to a cruel law of his own, and 
to vindicate it by detestable sanctions. It is unfortunate, 
too, that over and over again justice to Ireland has been 
unwisely retarded, and that redress for wrongs has been 
obtained only through violent agitation and similar methods. 
But when such a state of things existed as was seen in 
Ireland from 1831 to 1834, it is idle to say that it is not 
to be put down by force ; what is called coercion, in fact, 
is the only immediate remedy ; it is worse than folly to 
speculate on its remote causes, and still worse to hesitate in 
restoring order. The sentimentalist who refuses to see 
things as they are is really an abettor of anarchy and 
crime ; he may be quite right in deploring misgovernment 
in the past, and in denying that repression does permanent 
good ; but he is gravely to blame for false and often 
interested sympathy with sheer moral evil. The Grey 
Government properly applied to Parliament to cope with 
and quell the Reign of social Terror, of which Lord 
Wellesley wrote, about this time, in these words : " In 
Ireland there is a complete system of legislation, with the 


most prompt, vigorous, and savage executive power, sworn, 
equipped, and armed for all purposes of savage punishment, 
and that in almost every district . . . Lord Oxmantown 
truly observes that the combination surpasses the law in 
vigour, promptitude, and efficiency, and that it is more safe 
to violate the law than to obey it." 1 A very severe measure 
of coercion was proposed, the severest perhaps ever 
applied to Ireland ; it prohibited even public meetings 
of almost every kind, and set up martial law and its courts 
in disturbed districts, at the will of the Executive Govern- 
ment ; but there can be no doubt that had Grattan been 
alive, he would have given it unequivocal support. The 
Bill was opposed by O'Connell with extraordinary skill and 
power ; he boldly confronted an assembly incensed at his 
active obstruction and his licence of speech ; he proved 
himself to be a Titan of Debate, a match for Peel and 
Stanley under conditions most adverse to him. Lord 
Althorp, always averse to coercion, defended the scheme 
but with a faint heart ; 2 the occasion was remarkable for 
a masterly speech of Stanley, perhaps the most effective he 
ever made ; the Bill at last became law r , but not without 
difficulty. It is unnecessary to dilate on the results ; they 
are such as have repeatedly been seen in Ireland. It is not 
pretended that a radical cure of deep-seated social ills was 
effected ; but the rule of Whiteboyism was happily put 
down ; crime and disorder quickly diminished ; in a few 
months all that was worst was over. 

The Tithe War, however, attracted attention to what 
ought to have been considered many years before, the 
position of the Established Church in Ireland, and its 
relations with a Catholic people. The institution had been 

1 See also a striking passage, too long for quotation, in Sir G. 
Lewis on " Irish Disturbances," a work published in 1836, pp. 306-7. 

2 The feelings of even Liberal Englishmen to Ireland about this time 
may be gathered from these words of Lord Althorp, the mildest of men : 
" I have no patience with these Irishmen, and am almost inclined to 
say that no Government has really done justice to Ireland since Oliver 

H4 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

in some respects improved since we have glanced at what 
it was before the Union. Its enormous endowments had 
no doubt increased, and were more invidious and odious 
than before ; its organisation was defective and worked 
badly ; it was still conspicuous for its pluralitie s, its 
empty and wretchedly attended churches, and the iniquitous 
distinction between its dignitaries and its inferior clergy. 
But it had had several eminent divines at its head ; the 
activity of its ministers had certainly increased ; its worst 
social abuses had been partly removed ; it was no longer 
open, in its moral aspect, to reproach and scandal. Still 
it remained, as regards the mass of the people, what it had 
been since the days of Elizabeth, an o utward and v isible 
sign of conquest, a rallying point for a dominant caste, a 
badge of oppression for a subject race, the outwork^ of | 
a garrison, not the Good Shepherd's fold ; it was an 
object of the inveterate dislike of the Catholic priesthood, 
and of the execration of nine-tenths of the Catholic 
peasantry by reason of the hated impost of the tithe. Its 
position, therefore, was false and not to be justified ; all that 
was good in it bore little fruit ; the very virtues of its 
ministers only brought its vices and evils into fuller relief ; 
its tendencies, we have seen, had became proselytising and 
Calvinistic ; and the conduct ofits clergy, in the matter of 
the tithe, had greatly increased the animosities it provoked. 
When the Grey Government took up the question, O'Connell 
proposed the Disestablishment of the Church, and a redis- 
tribution of its revenues, included the tithe to be commuted ; 
a third part of these was to be allotted to the Irish Catholic 
Church ; it is to be regretted that this statesmanlike policy, 
very different from that of a subsequent time, was not 
adopted in 1832-3. But the compact of the Union stood 
' in the way, and was still respected by public men ; ideas of 
Disestablishment were not currrent ; the Ministry had 
recourse to a different measure as liberal probably as 
Parliament could be induced to adopt. Ten Sees of the 
Established Church were extinguished ; the revenues were 
applied to the needs of the lesser clergy ; and Catholic 


Ireland was relieved from the Church rate, a tax scarcely 

less unpopular than the tithe. 

This reform, superficial and partial as it was, was in- 
dignantly d enounce d by the Tory party, now beginning to 
raise its head again ; it was condemned as sacrilege in 
the Church of England ; it was the proximate cause of the 
Tractarian movement. The tithe, however, of the Estab- 
lished Church of Ireland remained the really important 
question ; nothing had been accomplished until this was 
settled. In view of the terrible state of Ireland, the Grey 
Ministry, no doubt, regretted that commutation had not been 
carried into effect in the generation that beheld the Union ; 
and their difficulties were increased by the disagreeable fact, 
that the sum of -£1,000,000 had been lent to the clergy 
of the Church, as an advance on the security of arrears of 
tithe, a loan that was evidently a bad debt. The Govern- 
ment, however, brought in a Bill, in the early part of the 
Session of 1834, in which the principle of commutation was 
fully recognised ; tithe was to be converted into a rent 
charge on land, not four-fifths of the original impost ; the 
measure passed through a second reading ; but ere long 
it encountered unforeseen obstacles. The Bill for the reform 
of the Irish Established Church contained an "Appro- 
priation " Clause, as it was called ; that is, part of the 
surplus revenues of the Church was to be applied by the 
State to secular uses ; but this was given up at the instance 
of Stanley, throughout his life a devoted and consistent 
churchman. But when the Tithe Bill was proposed after- 
wards, a resolution was moved in the House of Commons/ 
affirming " appropriation " in no doubtful words ; and Lord 
John Russell, though faintly, expressed his assent. " Johnny 
has upset the coach," a sagacious politician exclaimed ; 
within a few days Stanley threw up his office ; he was 
accompanied by three of his principal colleagues. O'Connell, 
it is scarcely necessary to add, had advocated " appropria- 
tion " and all that this implied, when it had become 
evident that his plan for dealing with the Church had no 
chance of success. 

n6 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

The great Reform Administration of 1831-2, supreme in 
the House of Commons for a long time, was thus shaken to 
its base on an Irish Question ; an Irish Question, too, caused 
its final overthrow. The Coercion Act referred to was about 
to expire, and Lord Grey, the head of the Government, 
wished to renew it. Lord Brougham, however, the Chan- 
cellor, disliked this policy, and, without the knowledge of 
his chief, he wrote to Lord Wellesley, the successor of Lord 
Anglesey, as Lord-Lieutenant, urging him to recommend 
a less Draconic measure. Wellesley sent a reply in favour 
of this view, but without informing Grey that he had 
been inspired by Brougham ; and meanwhile Lord Althorp, 
the leader of the House of Commons, had communicated 
with Littleton, the Chief Secretary, that O'Connell might be 
let know that an extreme measure of repression would not 
be applied to Ireland. All this was done behind Grey's 
back, and Littleton, having conferred with O'Connell, per- 
suaded the Irish tribune to withdraw a candidate selected by 
him to contest a seat with the Government. The Cabinet 
met within a few days ; Grey had heard from Wellesley 
what his opinion was, but had been kept in the dark about 
everything else ; he insisted on bringing forward a measure 
much harsher than Littleton had been led to expect ; at the 
same time he expressed his resentment at what was little less 
than an intrigue against him. The Bill was introduced by 
Grey into the House of Lords ; O'Connell at once declared 
in the House of Commons that he had been tricked by 
a deceitful Ministry ; the exposure was so painful that 
Althorp and Littleton placed their resignations in Grey's 
hands. Littleton's resignation was not accepted ; but the 
Grey Government was already tottering ; and the veteran 
minister, eager before to retire from his post, took the 
opportunity to resign himself, indignant at what he thought 
the treachery of more than one colleague, and what was one 
of those " blunders that are worse than crimes." x 

1 For further information respecting an incident now forgotten, but of 
extraordinary interest at the time, for it precipitated the fall of the 
Grey Government, see Hansard in loco, the " Memoirs of Littleton, 


The Grey Government had passed useful Irish measures, 
but these hardly fell in with Irish opinion ; they did not deal 
with the worst ills of Ireland ; the great question of the 
Tithe remained unsettled. It had been necessary, too, to 
" coerce " Ireland ; O'Connell, who had ably supported the 
Whigs in 1831, had long been their avowed enemy — his 
phrase " base, bloody, and brutal " is still remembered — 
above all, Catholic Emancipation had not been really carried 
out. From an Irish point of view there were grounds of 
complaint ; in England and Scotland, on the other hand, 
the movement against the Union and the Tithe War had 
caused widespread indignation on the increase ; Irish ques- 
tions, too, it was thought, stopped British reforms ; Ireland, 
it was evident, could unmake Ministries ; English and 
Irish opinion, accordingly, had widely diverged. The 
first Melbourne Ministry succeeded that of Lord Grey ; Al- 
thorp was induced to return to his post ; another attempt 
was made to deal with the tithe in Ireland. A Commutation 
Bill was, however, rejected by the House of Lords, and the 
Ministry was soon afterwards dismissed by William IV. Peel 
became Premier, almost against his will ; at the General 
Election of 1835 he obtained a majority of English 
members ; but the following of O'Connell increased in 
Ireland, and this, though slightly, inclined the scale against 
him. He had adopted the policy of commuting the tithe ; 
but he was still opposed to a diversion of the revenues of the 
Church to secular uses of any kind ; a Bill to this effect was 
proposed by his Chief Secretary, " appropriation " being, of 
course, left out. The late Ministers were incensed at having 
been dismissed ; they were eager to have their revenge 
on Peel ; but how were they to combine the discordant 
elements of their majority, divided in many ways, and chiefly 
dependent upon O'Connell, against a Government of great 
weight in English opinion ? The leader of the Opposition, 
Lord John Russell, a Parliamentary tactician of the first 
order, saw his opportunity in the Irish Tithe Bill ; he moved 

Lord Hatherton," and the Greville Memoirs, vol. iii. pp. 105-10. 
Greville is in error on some points. 

n 8 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

a Resolution in the House of Commons in which the 
principle of " appropriation " was distinctly affirmed. * Peel 
was defeated and his Ministry was broken up ; as in the 
cases of Wellington and Grey, an Irish Question had de- 
stroyed a Government, in this instance of remarkable 
strength in England. 

The second Melbourne Government followed the first 
Administration of Peel. Its Lord-Lieutenant was Lord 
Mulgrave, Lord Normanby in later years, an accomplished 
diplomatist and an able man, who succeeded to the office of 
Lord Haddington ; the Chief Secretary was Lord Morpeth, 
afterwards Lord Carlisle, a brilliant scholar, who may rank 
as a statesman. The position of the Government and the 
state of parties was remarkable, and the course of events that 
followed. The Whig Ministry was powerless in the House 
of Lords, where it was confronted by Wellington, Lyndhurst, 
and, not least, Brougham, indignant that the Great Seal had 
been taken from him ; it could expect no mercy from 
adversaries like these, and it was in a minority on all, and 
especially on Irish Questions. In the House of Commons 
it was opposed by a distinct, even a large majority, of 
English members, led by Peel, Stanley, Sir James Graham, 
and other men of mark ; and the small majority it had, 
taking the House as a whole, was chiefly composed of 
O'Connell's " Tail," every year growing into ampler size, 
and of Irish Liberals and Whigs who usually voted with him. 
O'Connell had, therefore, the fate of the Ministry in his 
hands ; those who know English politics may anticipate the 
result. The Government and the Irish tribune practically 
made a compact previously denounced at the time as 
treason to the State, but assuredly not deserving special 
blame ; they agreed to work together on well understood 
conditions, and O'Connell on these terms was to support the 
Ministry. O'Connell consented to abandon the movement 
against the Union ; to suspend a demand for Parliamentary 
Reform in Ireland ; and not to press the policy of Disestab- 

1 For a full account of this transaction see " Speeches and Des- 
patches of Earl Russell," vol. i. p. 102. 


lishing the Church, which indeed was obviously not feasible. 
But he stipulated- that Catholic Emancipation in Ireland 
should be made a reality ; that the Tithe should be com- 
muted with " appropriation/' as part of the measure ; and 
that municipal bodies in Ireland should be reformed, on the 
principle of the analogous reform in England. The con- 
ditions were moderate, even statesmanlike ; as far as was pos- 
sible they were honourably fulfilled. x 

O'Connell, accordingly, issued addresses, declaring that, 
while he kept the Question in reserve, he would not for the 
present agitate for Repeal ; the Government, which he 
highly praised, were to have "a fair trial." The Ministry, 
on their side, proceeded to carry out the policy to which 
they were virtually pledged. The first step was to give real 
effect to Catholic Emancipation, still almost a name ; they 
were remarkably successful in this effort. The patronage of 
Ireland, and especially of the Irish Bar, was placed almost 
wholly in O'Connell's hands ; he was consulted at least on 
many appointments ; the trust was executed with singular 
fairness and prudence. Liberal Protestants received a full 
share of offices in the State ; but Catholics were freely 
admitted to the magistracy and similar posts ; and eminent 
Catholics became Law officers of the Crown, and were 
raised to the Bench in the Superior Courts of Justice, the 
first instance of right being done in this province for ages. 
The effect in conciliating Catholic Ireland, as regards 
its upper and even middle classes, was great ; and simul- 
taneously O'Connell employed his immense influence in 
promoting order and obedience to law, and in facilitating the 
difficult task of the Ministry. At the same time earnest and 
well-conceived attempts were made to place Protestant and 

1 Lord John Russell, afterwards Earl Russell, remarks (" Speeches and 
Despatches," vol. i. p. 412) : " An alliance on honourable terms of mutual 
co-operation undoubtedly existed. The Whigs remained, as before, 
the firm defenders of the Union ; Mr. O'Connell remained, as before, 
the ardent advocate of Repeal-; but upon intermediate measures, on 
which the two parties could agree consistently with their principles^ 
there was no want of cordiality, nor did I ever see any cause to complain 
of Mr. O'Connell's conduct." 

120 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

Catholic Ireland on a true level of equality before the State 
and the law, and to secure the pure administration of 
impartial justice. The odious practice of shutting Catholics 
out of the jury box, and packing it with Protestants only, 
was happily brought to an end for years ; the fountain 
of Right was no longer poisoned at its source ; the practice, 
indeed, has scarcely ever reappeared in its worst features. 
The administration, too, of the law, and its procedure in the 
inferior Courts was recast and improved ; partisan magis- 
trates were removed from the Bench ; conspicuous members 
of the dominant caste, who had done wrong, were dismissed 
from office ; the results were in every respect excellent, 
especially in gaining the good will of the people, and giving 
it confidence in the law and its ministers. The most notable, 
however, of these reforms, and that which, perhaps, was 
most far-reaching, was the reorganisation of the Con- 
stabulary force of Ireland, and of its supplement, the paid 
magistrates, an institution, we have seen, originally due 
to Peel. The force had hitherto been mainly composed of 
Protestants, and had been established only in parts of 
Ireland. It was now fully thrown open to Catholics ; 
its numbers were very largely increased ; it was placed 
in different stations throughout every county. The paid 
magistrates were, also, doubled and trebled ; the system, 
under these conditions, has had the best results, in sup- 
porting order and law, and in promoting the influences on 
the side of civilisation and peace. 

Protestant Ascendency was thus for the first time 
brought under the wholesome restraint of law in Ireland ; 
the Irish Catholic felt for the first time that he was a 
free citizen in the State ; and the course of justice was 
improved and purified. A weighty, and as it proved, 
almost a crushing blow was also struck at Orangeism and 
all that is implied in the name. The Orange societies had 
been continually on the increase ; they had their lodges in 
most Irish counties ; they were numerous in London, even 
in the Colonies ; they had made their way into the ranks of 
the army, under the auspices of the late Duke of York ; 


they had at their head the notorious Duke of Cumberland, 
far from an honourable scion of the Royal Family. They 
had given less scope to excesses of crime and violence 
than had been the case thirty years before, and they com- 
prised more of the " respectable " classes ; but they formed 
a huge association, spreading far and wide, and with rami- 
fications in many lands, of which the object was to injure 
the Irish Catholic ; they were bound together by secret 
oaths and passwords ; they were, in fact, a vast Free- 
masonry with a sinister purpose ; and the conduct of 
Orangemen on juries and in the processions they regularly 
held to commemorate battles and sieges especially offen- 
sive to Catholic Ireland, annoyed the Government and even 
all right-minded men. The Orange Societies were charged 
with a deliberate plot to change the succession of the Crown 
of England and to give it to Cumberland, their " Grand 
Master" ; the charge, if not above suspicion, was without reai 
proof, but the attention of Parliament was directed to it ; 
and, after a prolonged and careful inquiry, the condemna- 
tion of Orangeism was striking and complete. The Asso- 
ciation was, to a great extent, broken up ; the Orange 
lodges were in many places dissolved ; the organisation 
divested itself of what was most lawless in its character ; the 
sphere of its influence was greatly narrowed. Orangeism, 
indeed, has not disappeared in Ireland, but it has long prac- 
tically been confined to a nook in Ulster ; it is now a mere 
survival of an evil past. 

The Irish administration of the Melbourne Government 
deserves the almost unqualified praise of history. Little' 
was done, indeed, to improve the material state of Ireland, 
which presented dark and alarming features ; in this 
respect we perceive a marked and grievous omission. 
Much, too, of the good that certainly followed was caused 
by O'Connell's persistent efforts to discountenance crime 
and to maintain order ; this interference of a popular 
tribune was not altogether in the interests of the State, or 
formed a real security for just government. But Catholic 
Emancipation was made a great fact ; Protestant Ascen- 

122 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

dency was not allowed to run riot ; the administration of 
the law became impartial and pure, and was greatly 
strengthened in every respect ; the evil reign of Orangeism 
came to an end. These were great and important moral 
victories, the consequences of which are felt to this day ; 
things in Ireland were placed on a level of right from 
which they have not since been displaced, at least for any 
long space of time ; it may be said that Government 
in Ireland acquired new power ; that the Union was based 
on more stable foundations ; and that while Protestant 
Ireland remained as loyal as of old, the whole upper orders 
of Catholic Ireland became sincerely attached to the 
British connection, a sentiment which has ever since 
increased. It deserves special notice that at this conjunc- 
ture it was found possible to govern Ireland by the ordinary 
law of the land without having recourse to coercive 
measures ; and though this state of things was not to 
be permanent, it was ominous at least of a better future. 
The change was not without certain drawbacks ; but it 
justified, in the main, the eloquent words of Macaulay : 
"The State, long the stepmother of the many, and the 
mother only of the few, became for the first time the 
common parent of all the great family. The body of the 
people began to look on their rulers as friends. Battalion 
after battalion, squadron after squadron, were withdrawn 
from districts which, as it had till then been thought, could 
be governed by the sword alone. Yet the security of 
property and the authority of law became every day more 
apparent. Symptoms of amendment, symptoms such as 
cannot be either concealed or counterfeited, began to 
appear." z 

A remarkable man, though in a subordinate office, 
contributed largely to the success of the Melbourne Adminis- 
tration in Irish affairs. Thomas Drummond was Under- 
Secretary at the Castle in those years ; it is exaggeration 
to say, as some have said, that he was the master spirit of 
the Irish Government, and the chief author of the change 
1 Speeches, pp. 596-7. Ed. 1882. 


for the better in Ireland. This, indeed, was probably due to 
O'Connell's influence more than to that of any one person- 
age ; and Lord Mulgrave and Lord Morpeth and their 
able law officers are also entitled to an ample share of 
praise. But Drummond was a man of real mark, strong ill 
purpose, upright, above all, well acquainted with the real 
state of Ireland ; his superiors certainly owed a great deal 
to him. He was the real designer of the admirable scheme 
for enlarging and improving the Constabulary force ; his 
office enabled him to effect much in securing a just 
administration of the law and in holding the scales even 
between the warring faiths of Ireland. He dealt an 
equal measure to Protestant and Catholic alike; punished 
Ribbonism and Orangeism with an impartial hand when 
societies of either kind had been guilty of crime ; and was, 
in a real sense, not a respecter of persons — a quality 
hitherto rare among Irish officials. He distinguished him- 
self also in an inquiry into the conduct of the Irish 
Executive ; he showed that it was prudent, moderate, above 
all just; he baffled angry zealots of the Protestant caste, who 
had denounced what was being done at the Castle. Drum- 
mond, too, gave proof of remarkable insight in a matter 
involving large Irish interests ; he saw that principles that 
might be rightly applied to England might be inapplicable to 
a poor and very backward country ; and he recommended, 
in a masterly report, that railways in Ireland should be the 
work of the State, at least to a considerable extent, and that 
their construction should not be abandoned to mere private 
enterprise. Yet Drummond had faults as a public man ; 
he laboured hard, and with marked effect, to strengthen the 
bureaucratic rule of the Castle ; this was one of his objects 
in increasing the Constabulary force ; and the consequences 
have been not without mischief. Like other men at the 
Castle, he also showed undeserved dislike to the Irish 
landed gentry, and was inclined to lay to their charge 
what really were the effects of a long term of misrule in 
the past. When he told them, in dictatorial language, that 
" Property has its duties as well as its rights," they might 

124 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

have retorted that, in Ireland, Government had not fulfilled 
its duties, severely as it had enforced its rights, and that too 
in times by no means remote. 

The Melbourne Ministry had meanwhile been endeavour- 
ing to effect the other reforms in Ireland, with regard to 
which it had given a pledge to O'Connell. The great 
question of the tithe, the source of a frightful social war, 
still remained open, and had been made a mere stalking- 
horse for the strife of party, as has too often been the case 
in Ireland ; the Government made repeated attempts at a 
settlement. It insisted, however, on "an Appropriation 
Clause " for a time — it could not, indeed, decently act 
otherwise — but Bills to this effect were rejected by the 
House of Lords, with the evident approval of English 
opinion. Even a Bill giving " appropriation " up and 
substituting a tax on the Irish Protestant clergy, was 
dropped, perhaps with the consent of O'Connell; the 
House of Lords would not accept the compromise ; the 
House of Commons did not care for the measure. A 
settlement was at last brought about, after a ruinous 
struggle of nearly seven years, which had been productive 
of the gravest mischief. The principle of " appropriation \ 
was abandoned ; the Tithe was converted into a Land Tax, 
three-fourths in amount of the gross impost, and to be 
charged to the owner, not to the occupier of land — that 
is, in the great mass of cases, to the Protestant landlord, 
not to the Catholic peasant. A wise reform was thus accom- 
plished, tardy as it was ; the " shepherds " of the Estab- 
lished Church in Ireland ceased, in Grattan's expressive 
phrase : " to thrust their crooks into the bodies of the 
sheep " ; the Catholic tiller of the soil and the Presbyterian 
likewise were relieved from an unjust burden ; and in the 
immense majority of instances they never paid the tithe in 
the shape of increased rent, as economists predicted would 
certainly happen. The Established Church, too, obtained 
a new lease of life ; opposition to it was in a great measure 
disarmed ; it was not seriously attacked again for nearly 
thirty years. The reform, however, had another side ; it 


may have been, in a sense, the means of preventing a 
more statesmanlike and a larger policy. It retarded for a 
long time the Disestablishment of the Church ; it threw 
into the background the important question of making 
a provision for the Irish Catholic clergy. It may be 
remarked that about this time O'Connell pronounced 
against an endowment of the kind, in contradiction to 
professions he had often made before ; he declared that 
his Church would not accept it ; but the offer, unfor- 
tunately, was never really made, and it is more than 
doubtful if O'Connell spoke what he felt. 

The attention of the Government had been directed also 
to the condition of the poor in Ireland in these years ; it 
introduced and carried into effect an Irish Poor Law, 
analogous in some respects to that which had recently 
passed in England. Ireland, we have seen, had not had 
a Poor Law before ; the principle that Property should 
bear a charge for the support of Poverty had been eschewed 
in the Irish Parliament ; it had not been vindicated even 
after the Union. The consequences had been disastrous in 
the extreme ; a Report, published in 1837-8, placed on 
record the appalling fact that, in a population of more than 
seven millions of souls, nearly two millions and a half were 
in abject wretchedness, indeed for months of the year on 
the verge of starvation. This terrible disclosure was, of 
course, only a passage in the history of a much larger 
subject, the state of the Irish land system and landed 
relations ; the misery of these multitudes was but the dis- 
eased point where a huge social ulcer came to a head, and 
the Government did not attempt to reach the source of the 
malady. But it did insist on passing an Irish Poor Law. 
Ireland was divided into about a hundred and twenty 
unions, fashioned, in the main, on the English model. 
The English system of relieving the poor was adopted with 
stringent precautions, however, against relief out of doors. 
It deserves notice that the measure was proposed and carried 
against the advice of an able Commission, and O'Connell 
went out of his way to condemn it. In this, however, he 

126 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

was clearly in the wrong ; his Catholic sympathies with 
private charity and his strong attachment to the rights of 
property unquestionably led him astray in this matter. The 
Irish Poor Law, nevertheless, was a century too late ; it 
proved unequal, we shall see, to meet an emergency of an 
awful kind that was ere long to occur. But it rightly 
asserted a true principle, and though its administration has 
been far from perfect, it has certainly done real and per- 
manent good. 

The question of Municipal Reform for Ireland remained ; 
the Government made efforts to cope with it. Municipal 
life in Ireland, it is unnecessary to say, was very different 
from what it had been in England. The municipalities of 
Ireland, with a few exceptions, were petty towns, hardly 
more than villages, wholly unlike the great corporate towns 
of the larger country. Corruption and maladministration, 
no doubt, existed in the governing bodies of many of the 
English corporate towns, but these evils were checked by a 
strong public opinion, and to a great extent by the require- 
ments of considerable and increasing places. Such restraints 
could not exist in Ireland ; her Corporations were, for the 
most part, little nests of peculation, jobbery, and misrule, 
wretched oligarchies, narrow, mischievous, bad ; and they 
were strongholds of Protestant Ascendency of the worst 
type, Catholics having been carefully shut out from their 
governing bodies, though made eligible by the Relief Act of 
1793. There were more than fifty municipalities in Ireland 
in all. The Government, acting on a very able report, pro- 
posed to reform them from top to bottom, throwing the 
governing bodies open to the townsmen, but making the 
municipal franchise high, no doubt from fear of possible 
attacks on property. The opposition, however, led by Peel, 
resisted the measure in the House of Commons ; it would 
make the Catholic masses supreme in the towns of Ireland ; 
it would create a Catholic Ascendency worse than the Pro- 
testant ; it would promote agitation, sedition, and trouble. 
Peel put forward a project of his own instead ; he gave up 
the governing bodies as hopelessly bad, but he proposed to 


place nearly all the corporate towns of Ireland under the 
control of Commissioners appointed by the Crown, that is, 
to deprive them of municipal rights. The House of Com- 
mons rejected the scheme, but the Bill of the Government 
was more than once rejected or mutilated by the House of 
Lords, as always strongly opposed to the Ministry, especially 
with respect to its Irish policy. 

A compromise was arrived at, but not until 1840 ; it 
really was a triumph for Peel and his followers. The great 
majority of the towns of Ireland lost their corporate powers, 
but the governing bodies of ten, the largest, of course, were 
reformed, and the -principle of popular election was applied 
to these. But the municipal franchise was made very 
high, and the Corporations were deprived of important 
rights which they had possessed in their unreformed state. 1 
Municipal life in Ireland has never had much energy ; the 
conditions, in fact, have been adverse ; but this feeble and 
inadequate measure required before long, we shall see, a 
supplement. The Irish administration and legislation of the 
Melbourne Government presented, indeed, a striking contrast : 
the first was moderate and just, but thorough and bold ; the 
second, transformed or baffled in Parliament, was maimed, 
halting, and very imperfect. The Ministry was now approach- 
ing its end ; it was becoming every year more and more 
unpopular ; its decline had been largely due to its Irish 
policy. Englishmen thought that Irish interests had been 
preferred to their own ; they had become disgusted with 
Irish questions ; their alienation from Catholic Ireland had 
increased. They disliked O'Connell, too, and especially his 
" Tail," his satellites, and those of a Romish priesthood ; 
they felt indignant that their Government was controlled by 

1 The speeches of Sheil on Irish Municipal Reform are among the 
best specimens of his oratory. His attack on Lyndhurst, who had 
described the Irish as " aliens," is a fine burst of eloquence ; but he 
had mastered the whole subject, and he reasoned it out with great 
ability and skill. Sheil had not the capacity, the depth, or the wisdom 
of Grattan, but he could rise to the height of a great argument, and 
Lord Beaconsfield has described him as the most brilliant rhetorician 
of his day. 

128 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

his will. And the conduct of O'Connell had added to the 
force of this sentiment ; he had become an object, in 
England, of contempt and aversion. He had tried to stir 
up agitation in England and Scotland, and had made an 
alliance with a school of Radicals ; but though he spoke 
with characteristic power at several public meetings, the 
movement he inaugurated completely failed. There was 
little in common, in fact, between British democrats and 
a great Catholic Irishman devoted to the Throne, and with a 
sincere respect for the rights of property ; and O'Connell 
was never in favour with the middle class in England, 
supreme in directing Parliament at this time, and now rally- 
ing around Peel and the Conservative party. But O'Connell 
suffered most, perhaps, in public opinion owing to the 
attitude he repeatedly assumed in the House of Com- 
mons. He did not, indeed, receive fair play ; he was over 
and over again shouted down in debate, and he was exaspe- 
rated by the abuse lavished on him, especially by the taunts 
of the newspaper press, which held him up to odium as the 
" Big Beggerman," forgetting that, if he was the paid 
champion of Catholic Ireland, he had abandoned a lucrative 
profession for its sake, and had refused one of the highest 
judicial offices honourably pressed on him by the Melbourne 
Government. But O'Connell often descended to the worst 
depths of Billingsgate ; his language in the House of Com- 
mons on many occasions was so scurrilous, coarse, and 
intemperate that he almost put himself outside the social 
pale. 1 

The Melbourne Administration disappeared after the 
General Election of 1841 ; as an Opposition it was for a 
long time powerless. Peel returned to office at the head of 
a large majority ; many important questions required at- 
tention ; but " Ireland," he remarked, " was his great diffi- 
culty." His position was, in fact, delicate in Irish affairs ; 
he had been identified for nearly thirty years with Pro- 

1 It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader that advocates of 
great causes have repeatedly been rewarded for their Parliamentary 
services. Edmund Burke, Grattan, and Cobden are instances. 


testant Ascendency, in a party sense ; he had resisted 
Catholic Emancipation to the last ; he had opposed nearly 
every measure of reform for Ireland introduced by the 
Grey and the Melbourne Governments. He appeared to be 
the able and bitter foe of Catholic Ireland ; with his great 
lieutenant, Stanley, he had long been at odds with 
O'Connell ; and Stanley had lately proposed a very restric- 
tive measure which would have disfranchised voters in 
Ireland by tens of thousands, and that in constituencies 
already small. Even before the fall of the Melbourne 
Government O'Connell had set Associations on foot which, 
he said, were to be " Precursors of Repeal," should the Whigs 
fail in " their fair trial ; " he was now released from the 
bargain he had made ; he took his course without hesitation 
or delay. He announced that the advent of Peel to office 
meant the revival of Protestant Ascendency in its worst 
forms, the restoration of Orangeism and its sinister power, 
the subjection of Catholic Ireland again, the abrogation of the 
Liberal policy of late years ; and once more he preached a 
crusade against the Union. It is impossible to say whether 
this step was, in the main, a party move against Peel, or the 
result of a deep-seated conviction ; it is difficult to suppose 
that a man like O'Connell, impulsive and sanguine like most 
Celts, but capable, sagacious, and with a strong intelligence, 
could, after the experience of 183 1-4, have seriously be- 
lieved beforehand, and in his calm moments, that he could 
bring Repeal to a successful issue ; that is, dismember the 
Empire against the will of an immense majority of the 
people of the Three Kingdoms. It seems probable, how- 
ever, that as the movement progressed, and attained pro- 
portions larger and more formidable than he ever dreamed 
of, he really thought he could dissolve the Union, though 
his subsequent conduct, after a single rebuff, makes even 
this conclusion open to question. 

O'Connell directed the new movement on the lines of the 
great movement of 1825-9. An Association to agitate for 
Repeal was formed ; the Catholic priesthood were again ad- 
jured to spread its ramifications throughout the country ; 


130 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

a Repeal Rent was to be collected ; all Irishmen were invited to 
condemn the Union. And a social movement was to sup- 
port the political ; as the Irish peasant, fifteen years before, 
was to be protected from eviction and acts of wrong, so he 
was now to obtain an improved tenure of land ; for O'Connell 
knew well, as experience has shown, that a mere outcry 
against the Union would have little effect on the mass of 
the people, if it did not directly appeal to their material 
interests. 1 The agitation on behalf of Repeal, however, 
was for many months feeble, and even abortive. O'Connell's 
influence in Ireland had declined, since the Melbourne 
Government had well-nigh failed on the Tithe and the 
Corporation Questions ; at the General Election of 1841 his 
"Tail" had been largely reduced in size; his ablest sup- 
porters in the great Catholic movement of a better day had 
fallen away from him ; his conduct in the House of Com- 
mons had shocked Liberal Irish Protestants. For a long 
time the Repeal Association seemed to be a mere phrase ; 
the Repeal treasury was almost empty ; even the priesthood 
were not enthusiastic in the cause. At this conjuncture a 
new and unexpected impulse was given to the languishing 
movement ; this proved to be of remarkable force. A new 
generation had sprung up since 1829 ; a knot of young, 
but very able men, had adopted the creed of the United 
Irishmen, and had recurred to the conception of a free and 
independent Ireland, forming a real nation in its combined 
classes ; and as Repeal in their view would further this end, 
they eagerly cast in their lot with O'Connell. They founded 
the Nation, a remarkable print, which gradually became 
a great power in the country, as powerful perhaps as the 
" Drapier Letters ; " they advocated Irish nationality in prose 
and verse, often of no ordinary vigour and beauty. Thomas 
Davis, the leader of " Young Ireland," as it was called, and 
several of his colleagues were, it may be observed, Protestants ; 
as events were to show, they differed completely from 

1 There was a great deal of excessive renting in Ireland at this time ; 
but it deserves notice that O'Connell refused to countenance a cry 
against rack-rents, such was his regard for the rights of property. 


O'Connell on points of supreme importance ; but for the 
present they were his devoted followers, and quickened the 
movement almost into a new existence. 

One of the first signs of the growing strength of Repeal 
was seen in a great debate on the subject in the reformed 
Corporation of the Irish capital, of which O'Connell had 
been Lord Mayor in 1842. The speech he made on this 
occasion was his masterpiece ; it is the ablest attack on the 
Union that has been delivered, at least since the attacks in 
the Irish Parliament, as Peel's speech of 1834 was the ablest 
defence. It is remarkable that a reply was attempted by 
Butt, then a rising lawyer of brilliant parts, in after years, 
as he has been called, the " Father of Home Rule." The 
Reoeal movement now rapidly swelled in its volume ; the 
priesthood at last flung themselves into the cause ; the 
organisation of 1825-9 was formed again ; the Repeal As- 
sociation had its branches affiliated in five-sixths of the 
country ; the Repeal Rent was collected byt " wardens " in 
large sums from thousands of parishes. O'Connell pro- 
claimed that " 1843 would be the Repeal year" ; he made 
progresses through many parts of Ireland attended with 
extraordinary results. From the first moment, indeed, he 
completely failed to combine Ireland as a whole against the 
Union ; Presbyterian and Protestant Ireland stood angrily 
aloof, if a few deserters were found from their ranks ; so 
did nearly all the Catholic gentry, and the great body of 
traders and professional men ; the Property and Intelligence 
of Ireland, in a word, abhorred Repeal. O'Connell was 
compelled to fall back on Catholic Ireland, and on the 
priesthood its real masters ; in this field his success was 
immense and imposing, if its true significance remained 
apparent. Enormous gatherings of peasants were drawn 
together to places hallowed in the traditions of the Celt, or 
notable in Irish Catholic annals ; and O'Connell addressed 
" these monster meetings" in the popular oratory of which 
he was a perfect master, assuring his hearers that Repeal was 
at hand, and would bring comfort and well-being to all poor 
men's homes. The most admirable order prevailed through 

T32 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

huge masses, sometimes composed of hundreds of thousands 
of men ; the spectacle they presented was truly wonderful ; 
O'Connell was not in error in his boast that they were un- 
exampled displays of " moral force " ; and though he some- 
times made use of dangerous language, he repudiated "physical 
force " in any event, insisted upon obedience to the law, and 
announced that he would accomplish Repeal without " the 
shedding of a drop of blood," as he had accomplished 
Emancipation before. Nevertheless, as History looks back 
at these scenes, it perceives that, striking and even grand as 
they were, a great State was never even shaken by such 

The Repeal movement was looked upon in foreign lands 
as the uprising of a nation against its rulers. France and 
America at this time were not well disposed towards Eng- 
land ; in both countries thousands were found to hail " the 
Irish Revolution" with joyous acclaim; O'Connell was 
raised to a pinnacle of fame on which he had never stood 
before, and was deemed by many enthusiasts the leading 
man of Europe. Yet the movement was wanting in essential 
strength ; it was but the swaying to and fro of chaotic 
masses under a great agitator and priestly demagogues ; 
and England indignantly pronounced against it. English- 
men, in fact, severely condemned the Government because 
Repeal was not put down by force at once ; the national 
sentiment was not for a moment doubtful. 1 Peel confronted 
O'Connell with calm sternness ; declared that he would up- 
hold the Union at any risk and cost ; and made preparations 
to quell the movement should it unhappily lead to an open 
outbreak. A measure to restrict the possession of arms was 
passed ; the number of troops in Ireland was increased ; the 

1 The Greville Memoirs abound in expressions reflecting on the 
Government for its alleged supineness. As to the opinion entertained 
of O'Connell in foreign countries, see a striking passage in Macaulay's 
speeches, p. 652. I have room for one sentence only : — " Go where 
you will on the Continent . . . the first question asked by your com- 
panions, be they what they may, is certain to be, ' What will be done 
with Mr. O'Connell ? ' Look over any file of French journals and you 
will see what a space he occupies in the eyes of the French people." 


" monster meetings " were watched by bodies of police ; a few 
Justices of the Peace, who had declared for Repeal, were 
— a questionable act of power — removed from the Bench. 
O'Connell, meanwhile, had gone on with his work ; his 
language to the multitudes he addressed became more de- 
fiant ; he entangled himself at last in the net of the law. 
The " monster meetings " were possibly not illegal in them- 
selves, though they had a tendency to alarm law-abiding 
citizens. But O'Connell had invited the dismissed magis- 
trates to act as " arbitrators " generally, and so to administer 
the law ; he proposed to assemble a " Council of Three 
Hundred," in order practically to represent Ireland, a 
violation of the Convention Act ; and the dangerous law of 
conspiracy had him also in its folds. The Government saw 
and seized the occasion ; a " monster meeting " to be 
held at Clontarf — the scene of a great Celtic victory — was 
stopped ; and O'Connell and his principal adherents were 
placed under arrest. 

The State trial that followed, save in its final result, 
was an unfortunate specimen of British justice. The 
display of advocacy, indeed, in the Four Courts in Dublin, 
was worthy of the best traditions of the Bar of Ireland ; 
an aged judge remarked that he " remembered the days 
of Ireland's forensic eminence, even of Flood and the men 
of his time, but that he had never seen such ability before." * 
But the proceedings at the trial were marked by incidents 
that bore the stamp of iniquity, nay, were scandalous. The 
indictment was of inordinate length, and contained charges 
ambiguous, perplexing, even untenable ; but compared to 
other things this was only a trifle. O'Connell was the 

i foremost man of Catholic Ireland ; in a country torn by a 
strife of creeds, he was put on his trial before a Bench com- 

I posed wholly of Protestant judges, the chief of these 
being a notorious partisan, as to whose charge Macaulay 
remarked, " to do him right, however, I will say that his 
charge was not, as it has been called, unprecedented ; for it 
bears a very close resemblance to some charges which may 
1 Greville's Memoirs, vol. v. p. 233. 

134 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

be found in the State trials of the reign of Charles the 
Second." * Nevertheless this was by no means the worst ; 
the jury were, to a man, Protestants, some dependents and 
tradesmen of the Castle ; and a mistake, if it was a mis- 
take, was made which damned, so to speak, the whole 
tribunal. The Recorder of Dublin, an honourable judge, 
had made up the Jurors' Book in the ordinary way ; but no 
less than sixty names were left out of the list afterwards ; 
and many of them, it was proved, were Catholics. 2 This 
single fact made the trial unjust. O'Connell and his 
colleagues were placed in the hands of a jury, not only 
hostile and packed, but arrayed, by sinister means, for a 
purpose ; Macaulay rightly observed : " The only wise, 
the only honourable course open to you was to say, ' A 
mistake has been committed, the mistake has given us an 
unfair advantage, and of that advantage we will not make 
use.' " 3 The proceedings, of course, were a foregone con- 
clusion ; after a prolonged inquiry, in which Justice was 
mocked in her seat, O'Connell and his fellows were con- 
demned and sentenced ; but the verdict carried no moral 
weight. Yet " Right was done " at last, in the noble 
words of our law ; and that by the House of Lords, 
O'Connell's declared enemy. The judgment was reversed, 
partly on technical grounds, which, however, were in the 
main substantial ; some of the charges were indisputably 
bad, yet a general verdict had been pronounced on all, and 
this was, in no sense, an imaginary wrong. The decision of 
the Lords, however, proceeded chiefly on the falsification of 
the jury panel, owing to the significant omissions from the 
list. Lord Denman properly remarked that trial by jury 
would be made " a mockery^a delusion and a snare " if a 
contrivance such as this was permitted to succeed. 

1 Speeches, p. 654. 

2 It was in reference to this that Sheil made use of these happy 
expressions, in an address to Peel (Speeches, p. 323) : " Does not your own 
heart inform you that history, in whose tribunal juries are not packed — 
history, the recorder whose lists are not lost — stern, inflexible, im- 
partial history, upon this series of calamitous proceedings, will pro- 
nounce her condemnation ? " 3 Speeches, p. 654. 


Catholic Ireland was rightly incensed at O'Connell's 
trial ; the Repeal Rent enormously increased ; the Repeal 
Association appeared to have acquired new strength. A 
few Protestant gentlemen, indeed, joined it ; the principal 
of these was William Smith O'Brien, an honourable 
but wrong-headed man, not without fine parts, but 
spoiled by extreme self-conceit ; to whom we shall recur 
afterwards. O'Connell was liberated from an imprisonment 
little more than nominal ; his followers confidently hoped 
that the Repeal movement would go on with accelerated 
force, nay, might be brought to a successful end. They 
were, however, doomed to a disappointment, striking and 
complete ; the agitation, so imposing a few months before, 
ere long collapsed and literally died out ; it was like the 
gourd that suddenly springs up and as quickly perishes. 
The weight of years, and the exertions he had made in 
1843, had told heavily on the great tribune ; the speech he 
had made at his trial, in self-defence, was wholly wanting in 
energy and resource ; he was already stricken by a disease 
which was to prove mortal. After petty demonstrations 
made to cover a retreat, he retired to take rest in the country 
for a time ; he then pretended to adopt, instead of Repeal, a 
fantastic scheme of a Federal Irish Parliament, which had 
found a certain amount of support in Ulster ; but before long 
he abandoned the project ; he evidently had not given it 
serious attention. He vacillated and hesitated as to what he 
was next to do ; it soon became apparent that he had no 
distinct policy ; it was whispered that he had made a second 
alliance with the Whigs ; his followers began to fall away ; 
the Repeal Association became a phantom. A breadi^QO^ 
every month widening, look place between O'Connell and 
the Young Ireland party. These men were hardly men of 
action like Tone ; but they were true, in some respects, to 
Tone's ideal ; and they had long resented much in their 
leader's conduct. They aimed at creating a really United 
Ireland ; they were angry that O'Connell had put his trust 
only in Catholic Ireland, in the Repeal movement, and had 
made Irish divisions only more manifest. They rejected, 

136 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

too, the shibboleth of " moral force " ; declared tjiat 

Ireland ought to appeal to the sword, should a favourable 
opportunity arise; and scorned an agitation that had no 
results, but shouting multitudes and words that came to 
nothing. Nor did they admire the presence of the priest in 
politics, or O'Connell's dictatorial and imperious temper ; 
from this time forward they ceased to have confidence in 

The period, of which we have traced the leading events, 
so far as these relate to Irish affairs, falls naturally into two 
parts. The first part includes nearly all the reforms of im- 
portance obtained by Ireland during many years ; indeed, 
in the existing generation of public men. Some of these 
reforms were of great value, and have done permanent and 
unquestionable good. Catholic Emancipation was made a 
reality ; Protestant Ascendency and Orangeism were kept 
down ; the administration of justice was immensly im- 
proved ; the system of National Education has borne ample 
fruits ; the great grievance of the Tithe was removed ; the 
Irish Poor Law was a judicious measure. But the great 
and important subject of the Land — on which the welfare 
of Ireland chiefly depended — was not even approached by 
statesmen ; and many of the reforms that were accomplished 
were too late, or were inadequate and injured as they passed 
through Parliament ; taken as a whole, they fell far short of 
corresponding reforms in England and Scotland, and they 
were sometimes opposed to Irish opinion. Ireland in these 
years played a very important part in determining the 
politics, nay, the fortunes of the State ; Irish questions, if 
delayed, and often badly handled, more than once made and 
unmade Ministers. The great body of Englishmen resented 
this ; they felt that Irishmen, so to speak, stood in their 
way ; they perceived that the House of Commons had been 
invaded by an element indifferent or hostile to British 
interests, since the measure of 1829 had become law ; they 
were incensed that O'Connell and his " Tail " could rule 
a British Ministry. All this, added to the aversion which 
Whiteboy crimes and incessant agitation provoked in 


England, caused England and even Scotland to turn aside 
from Ireland ; and this sentiment by degrees increased. 
England and Scotland, indeed, came to the aid of Ireland 
at a terrible crisis soon to be noticed ; but from this time 
forward, for nearly thirty years, reforms for Ireland were few 
and found little favour. For the rest it may be observed 
that, in this period, the bureaucratic rule of the Castle was 
strengthened, and the Irish landed gentry were still further 
weakened ; the consequences were to prove, in some 
respects, unfortunate. 

The second part of this period ends with the failure of 
the great Repeal movement of 1843. That movement 
attained gigantic proportions, and drew to it the attention 
of the civilised world. But it was without elements of 
essential strength ; if caused by accidents in some degree, 
its collapse was ignominious and absolute ; it has never 
appeared in the same form again. The real moral it 
[pointed was that Ireland had completely changed since 
\1800- 1. At that time Protestant Ireland, in the main, 
disliked the Union ; it had now become, with scarcely an 
exception, attached to it ; the intelligence and the wealth of 
Ireland was on the same side ; and Repeal was at bottom 
the cry of Catholic masses, the instruments of O'Connell 
and an anti-English priesthood, a cry, too, that would have 
found little support, had not Repeal been associated in the 
minds of credulous peasants, with ulterior benefits artfully 
held out to them. The movement aroused again the anger 
of England, and strengthened the antipathy Ireland had - 
begun to inspire. To suppose that these Realms were to be 
rent asunder ; that an alien and hostile Legislature was to be 
set up that might paralyse and baffle the Imperial Parlia- 
ment ; and that a Revolution was to take place in Ireland, 
necessarily attended with calamitous results — this shocked 
the conscience and common sense of the nation. Macaulay 
expressed the mind of England when, amidst the plaudits 
of a crowded House of Commons, he gave utterance to these 
significant words : " The Repeal of the Union we regard 
as fatal to the Empire, and we will never consent to it — 

138 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

never, though the country should be surrounded by 
dangers as great as those which threatened her when her 
American Colonies and France and Spain and Holland 
were leagued against her, or when the armed neutrality of the 
Baltic disputed her maritime rights ; never, though another 
Bonaparte should pitch his camp in sight of Dover Castle ; 
never, till all had been staked and lost ; never, till the four 
quarters of the world have been convulsed by the last 
struggle of the great English people for their place among 
the nations." 



Peel inaugurates a new policy for Ireland — Its principles — Charitable 
bequests — Maynooth — The increased grant to the College — Furious 
opposition to the measure — Its results not important — The Queen's 
Colleges — Principles of this scheme of education — Opposition of the 
Catholic Irish hierarchy — The Colleges a comparative failure — The 
Devon Commission — State of the Irish land system — The Report of 
the Commission — The failure of the potato in 1845 — Widespread 
distress — The policy of Peel — Destruction of the potato in 1846 — 
Famine in parts of Ireland — Policy of Lord John Russell and his 
Government — The Labour Rate Act — Useless Public Works — Relief 
in food — The Poor Law enlarged — Magnificent private charity — 
Thousands perished, but millions were saved — Emigration on an 
enormous scale — Death of O'Connell — His character — Final breach 
between O'Connell's party and Young Ireland — Smith O'Brien — 
An Irish Revolutionary party — Mitchell, Meagher, John Fintcn 
Lalor — Arrest and transportation of Mitchell — A rising planned — 
The Government forces it to a head — Arrest and sentence of Smith 
O'Brien and his principal adherents — Collapse of the movement of 

The mind of Peel usually moved very slowly, but formed 
rapid decisions when once made up. We see this quality 
in many passages of his career— when the currency was 
reformed in 18 19, in the long contest on the Catholic 
claims, in the movement against the Corn Laws in 
1 841-6 ; it was one of his marked defects as a statesman, 
a chief cause of the party hatreds he provoked. Having 
been since he was Chief Secretary — that is for a period of 
thirty years— a champion of the Irish Protestant interest, 
he suddenly resolved, after the experience of 1843, to 


140 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

become the author of a new and a different Irish policy. 
He had arrived at the conviction that it was now impos- 
sible to maintain Protestant Ascendency in Irish affairs, 
and that the system was an anachronism and effete ; he 
had been profoundly impressed by the supreme influence 
of O'Connell over the Irish Catholic masses, and by the 
evident, if ill-defined aversion of Catholic Ireland, in the 
main, to the British connection. His purpose was formed, 
it would appear, without taking his party into his confi- 
dence ; it was certainly strengthened, he declared himself, 
by the difficulties in which the State was involved, owing to 
the attitude of France, in the affair of Pritchard, and of 
the United States on the Oregon Question. The main 
principles of his policy were these : he firmly took his 
stand on the Union, and refused to listen to schemes to 
shake that settlement ; and he resolved to maintain 
Protestant institutions in Ireland as they were, especially 
the institution of the Established Church, placed, he 
thought, beyond attack, by an international Treaty. But 
his aim was to set, side by side of these, other institutions 
of a supplementary kind, which he hoped would be well 
received by Catholic Ireland, and would gradually lessen 
its avowed disloyalty ; " You cannot break up," he said, 
" this confederacy by force, but you can do much by act- 
ing in a spirit of kindness, forbearance, and generosity." 
Peel, also, directed his attention to the state of the Irish 
land system and of its social relations, and to the condition 
of the millions of the Irish poor, questions which he had 
neglected in his early years, and which, though of supreme 
importance, more important than any other Irish questions, 
had hitherto been hardly touched by our statesmen. At 
the instance of one of the Ulster members, a staunch sup- 
porter of the claims of Irish tenants, and especially of the 
Tenant Right of the North, he had appointed an important 
Commission in 1843, to investigate and report on those 
subjects ; to the labours of this body we shall refer after- 
wards. It is scarcely necessary to say that, in this respect, 
the Minister was consistent with his well-known view that, 


before all things, the State should endeavour to promote 
the material welfare of the mass of the people. 

Indications of the change in Peel's mind became ere long 
apparent in Irish affairs. Lord Mulgrave had been replaced 
by Lord Ebrington ; his successor as Lord- Lieutenant, in 
the fall of the Melbourne Administration, was Lord De Grey; 
and Lord De Grey was supposed to have Orange sympathies. 
He was followed by Lord Heytesbury, a man after Peel's 
heart ; at the same time appointments were made, which 
seemed to forebode a return to the days when O'Connell 
controlled Irish Whig patronage. The first legislative 
measure in the same direction was seen in the establish- 
ment of a Board empowered to receive bequests for Irish 
Catholic charities — these had hitherto been thwarted by 
half penal laws — and to administer them in a just system ; 
this, if not a very important, was a wise concession, which, 
on the whole, has had excellent results. A second measure 
was larger and more far-reaching ; it was notable for the 
furious passions it aroused, if not attended by the con- 
sequences its author hoped for, or indeed by consequences 
of great moment. The College of Maynooth had, we have 
seen, been founded in 1793-4, for the education of the Irish 
priesthood ; and the Irish priesthood, as Tone had, indeed, 
foretold, had become animated with the sentiments of their 
race, and had given perhaps its most powerful impulse to 
the great Catholic movement of 1824-9, an< ^ to the Repeal 
movement of 1842-4. But the College was poor and 
miserably endowed — it was called a Dotheboys Hall in the 
House of Commons ; — and the Irish Catholic clergy had, 
for many years, been drawn from the ranks of the lower 
middle class in Ireland, especially from those of the large 
Irish farmers, divided generally in race and faith from their 
landlords. Peel hoped to raise the status of this order of 
men, to bring into it sons of the Irish Catholic gentry, 
friends of the Union, and of British rule in Ireland, and so 
to lessen its power for agitation and trouble, by adding 
largely to the resources of Maynooth ; he proposed accord- 
ingly nearly to treble the fund which the College had 

142 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

annually received from Parliament, to make it an absolutely 
secure gift, and to devote a considerable sum to the erection 
of new buildings. The Bill became law, but not until it 
had raised a storm of indignation in England and Scotland 
already estranged from Catholic Ireland ; and it exasperated 
a number of Peel's followers on whom it had, so to speak, 
been sprung. It was predicted, at the time, that the measure 
was a prelude to the much greater measure of endowing 
the Irish Catholic clergy, the salutary, but unaccomplished 
policy of another day ; and Peel possibly may have had 
this end in view. But the fierce opposition to the increased 
grant to Maynooth must have convinced him that the pro- 
ject was hopeless at this time, though it occurred to more 
than one of his successors afterwards ; and it was not 
brought before Parliament, on the one occasion, when it 
might have prevailed. 

The College of Maynooth remained on this footing for a 
period of about twenty-five years. The objects of Peel, 
however, were not accomplished ; the quality of the Irish 
priesthood was not improved ; they continued to be re- 
cruited from the same classes ; they were compelled, indeed, 
by ultramontane influence to desist, afterwards, from open 
agitation for a time, but their sympathies and character have 
not changed. The third of Peel's measures was an attempt 
to advance higher education to some extent, in Ireland, 
regard being especially given to the Irish Catholic. Apart 
from the English Universities where the sons of the Irish 
aristocracy were still generally sent, Trinity College educated, 
with the best results, the youth of a great majority of the 
Protestant gentry, and of the Protestant professional and 
often mercantile classes ; and, as we have seen, it had made 
the Irish Catholics eligible to its degrees more than half a 
century before. Many Catholics had been well trained 
within its walls ; but Trinity College still confined its 
honours and emoluments to the Protestant caste ; it was 
a Protestant institution, from top to bottom ; much of its 
teaching was opposed to Catholic dogma. It was not a 
seminary for the education of Catholic youths, as a class ; 


and yet Catholic Ireland had not a single foundation of 
anything like the same kind, which the State recognised. 
True to the principle he had laid down for himself, Peel did 
not interfere with Trinity College ; but he sought to establish, 
apart from it, a system of education for Irishmen of the 
better classes, and, above all, for those of Catholic Ireland. 
The system he adopted was essentially like that of the 
" National " system of Stanley ; but it had differences and 
peculiarities of its own. Three Colleges, to be named after 
the Queen, were to be founded in Galway, Cork, and Belfast; 
they were to be affiliated to a University empowered to grant 
degrees ; they were to be endowed by the State with suffi- 
cient funds ; and they were to afford an education of what 
may be called the University type. But the instruction to be 
given, so far as respects the State, was to be purely " secu- 
lar," and in no sense " religious ; " and as in the case of the 
National Schools, the youth in the Colleges were to be 
taught together. But no real provision was made, though 
facilities were no doubt afforded, for giving "religious" 
instruction to the pupils apart ; and residence in the 
Colleges was not required. 

A system such as this was, for obvious reasons, more 
difficult to establish and to render flourishing, than the 
corresponding National system ; and it was more open to 
grave objections. For example, to refer to a single parti- 
cular, instruction might be in a real sense " secular/' were it 
limited to the first rudiments, as it professedly was in the 
National Schools, and the children in them might be well 
taught together ; but could education in such subjects as 
moral philosophy, history, and several others, involving deep 
theological questions, and religious controversies of many 
kinds, be deemed " secular " in a rational acceptation of the 
word ; and could the youth of the warring creeds of Ireland 
be expected to meet and to learn these subjects in common ? 
Quite conceivably, too, "religious" instruction might not 
be afforded in the Colleges at all ; and the dispensation with 
residence, if in some respects expedient, was to those who 
know what University life is, a real and solid ground for 

144 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

complaint. The plan was at once denounced as " godless " 
by the High Church party in the House of Commons ; and 
when submitted to the Irish Catholic bishops, who, in this 
matter, claimed to direct their flocks, it was met by an un- 
equivocal protest. 1 A certain number of the body, indeed, 
proposed changes, and even hesitated for a short time after- 
wards, for the want of high education was sorely felt in 
Ireland ; but the Government, though ready to make con- 
cessions, refused to depart from the principles of the scheme, 
and then the opinion of the hierarchy was again clearly 
expressed. As in the case of the National system, we shall 
return to the subject of the Queen's Colleges, to which 
Parliament gave its assent, when the system attained a 
fuller development ; it must suffice here to say that they 
have had a certain measure of success in Presbyterian 
Ireland ; but they have completely failed as to Catholic 
Ireland, for whose benefit they were mainly designed. 2 

The policy of Peel in setting up in Ireland institutions 
mainly for the benefit of the Irish Catholic, and in leaving 
Protestant institutions intact, was, perhaps, all that Parliament 
would have sanctioned at the time ; but it was a superficial 
and imperfect policy ; its results were insignificant and of 
little value. We turn to examine the Irish land system of 
this day, and the condition of Irish landed relations, to 
which the Minister, we have said, had directed his mind. 
The main lines of that system had been little changed since 
we considered what they had been thirty years before ; they 
exist, though almost transformed, to the present hour. 
Absenteeism had continued to increase since steam naviga- 
tion had bridged the Channel ; but absentee estates were 
much better managed than they had been in the generation 
that beheld the Union. Middleman tenures had very much 
diminished, a process going on year after year ; but they 

1 See the ipsissima verba in Duffy's " Young Ireland," pp. 713-14. 
There has been much misapprehension on this subject. 

2 For the position of the Queen's Colleges in Catholic Ireland see 
Archbishop Walsh on " The Irish University Question," pp. 31, 33, and 
the references. 



were still numerous in many counties, especially in those 
which were most backward ; the resulting mischiefs were 
grave and apparent. There had been a considerable en- 
largement and consolidation of farms, attended, it should be 
said, with much social trouble ; but the land of the country 
in Leinster, Munster, and Connaught, and in by far the 
greatest part of Ulster, remained generally in the occupation 
of a humble peasantry, separated from their superiors in 
blood and religion. The broad features of the land system 
were thus essentially as they had been ; but they had been 
altered in some important respects, and the alteration had 
not been in all points for the better. Ireland had made un- 
i questionable material progress ; the distress and dearth which 
1 had followed the war had not culminated in famine since 
j 1822-3 ; the results were seen in the increase of large hold-' 
! ings, in a marked improvement in many rural industries] 
in a rise of rent, legitimate in many instances. But the 
population, on the other hand, had gone on multiplying- 
i since 1814-20, having been, at that period, some six millions 
I and a half of souls, it had become about eight millions three 
1 hundred thousand ; and the social consequences may bei 
'easily guessed at. The area of extensive farms had been\ 
| enlarged ; but the land, taken as a whole, had been more j 
and more divided into petty and much too minute holdings ; 
land dense and growing millions swarmed upon these, cling- ' 
ling to the soil as a destructive burden. The Poor Law, it 
i should be adde&, a new enactment, had drawn a mere 
j fraction of these masses from the land; it did not fall in 
with Irish tastes and habits ; to this day it is disliked by the 

This 'state of things necessarily caused the phenomena to 

which we have adverted before. Rents continued to be 

() forced up by the competition for land, and reached the 

;highest point they have attained in Ireland l ; in thousands 

. of cases they were, no doubt, excessive. The owners of the 

land went on living fast, and multiplied the charges on their 

x The rent of land in Ireland has almost certainly fallen considerably 

since 1843-4. 


146 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

estates ; as a class they were more exacting than their fore- 
fathers ; and this tendency had increased since their social 
influence and political power had been greatly weakened by 
O'Connell and the bureaucratic rule of the Castle, and since 
they had become alienated more and more from their 
tenants. The wages of labour had only slightly advanced, 
notwithstanding the progress of the country in wealth, owing 
to the growth of the dense population ; the cottar 
system was more and more extended with its many and 
perilous social mischiefs. Enormous tracts of land were 
occupied under these conditions ; in these millions of human 
beings lived in misery on a perishable root ; society, in fact, 
as was truly said, was " based largely " in Ireland, " on the 
potato " ; it was the staff of life, the currency, the main 
support of these masses ; What would be the results should 
it suddenly fail in a country still not well opened, in parts, 
by roads, where there was comparatively little retail trade, 
where a commercial middle-class was largely wanting, where 
the towns were few, and often far off from each other ? 
Turning from these strata of society, of which the evils and 
dangers were already too manifest, to the condition of the 
large occupiers of the soil, of the class really deserving the 
name of farmers, we see also a series of increasing mischiefs. 
The rate of rent, we have said, was unduly rising ; but this 
was only a part of the manifold ills which affected Irish 
landed relations. As the wealth oi the country hud gone on 
increasing the tenants of Ireland had more and more made 
additions to the value of their farms, had, in a word, made 
more and more improvements ; and in thousands of in- 
stances, especially in the North, and largely, also, in the 
Southern Provinces, incoming tenants had paid consider- 
able sums to outgoing on the transfer of farms ; in fact, had 
become, in a sense, their owners by purchase. The con- 
current rights, therefore, of the tenant class in the land, had 
been made infinitely greater than they had been ; and in 
tens of thousands of cases, as Burke had foreseen, they 
amounted, morally at least, to a real joint ownership. And 
yet, save where it was protected by the Ulster custom, this 


huge mass of all but proprietary rights remained outside the 
pale of the law ; it depended for its existence on the will of 
the owners of the soil. 

It is unnecessary to repeat that this Tenant Right, as it 
may be described, in a single word, could never have 
established itself in Ireland, had it not had the sanction and 
the support of the landlords as a class. But rights of this 
kind, especially as they were inconsistent with the strict 
modes of tenure, ought assuredly to have been made law- 
worthy ; nor can we forget that Irish landlords were divided 
from their dependents, in race and faith, in by far the 
greatest part of the country, and of late years had become 
more divided from them. And while the rights of the 
occupiers of the soil had immensely increased, their hold on 
the land had, within this period, been, to a very considerable 
extent, diminished. The consolidation of farms had 
naturally caused the dispossession of thousands of small 
tenants. The forty-shilling freeholders had all had leases for 
lives ; but the forty-shilling freehold franchise had been 
abolished ; they had generally sunk into the position of 
tenants-at-will. Add to this that landlords had become 
more exacting ; and we see at once how in many parts of 
Ireland the position of the farmer had become more and 
more insecure ; and how, in this state of things, Law and 
Fact had begun to come in sharp conflict in the land 
system. Evictions, no doubt, were much less frequent than 
they had been during the years that followed the war ; but 
they had been not uncommon ever since ; the odious word 
" clearing estates " had come into general use. The inevit- 
able and unhappy results ensued : the law of the peasant 
sought to protect rights unprotected by the law of the land ; 
Whiteboyism, Ribbonism, and their fell organisation of 
crime had never ceased to make their presence felt. The 
year 1844 was comparatively a quiet year ; but it was 
marked by a thousand cases of agrarian outrage. 

The Commission appointed by Peel was composed of 
landlords ; its President was the head of the great House 
of Courtenay, an owner of large estates in Ireland. It 

148 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

investigated the state of the Irish land system, in a laborious 
inquiry of many months j it threw a flood of instructive 
light on the subject. The historical part of the Report 
is excellent ; it showed how existing Irish landed relations 
grew out of the conquests and confiscations of the past ; it 
set forth very clearly, and in an immense mass of evidence, 
the salient facts of the Irish land system, dwelling especially 
on the dangers of a population much too redundant. Some 
of the recommendations, too, were judicious and good, 
particularly as to the enclosure of waste lands, and on 
emigration, to be conducted on an extensive scale, in order 
to relieve the land from a destructive incubus. But on the 
principal passage of the inquiry, the true character of the 
tenure of land in Ireland, and how the land system was to 
be improved, the Devon Commission went wholly astray ; 
the conclusions it formed were either false or feeble. 
Looking at the subject from an English point of view only, 
the Commissioners saw a complication and confusion of 
rights, in the modes of occupying land in Ireland, where 
these were dissimilar to English tenures ; they warned Irish 
landlords that the concurrent rights their tenants might 
have acquired, through additions to their farms, or because 
money had been paid on their transfer, were the gradual 
creation of " embryo copyholds," which ultimately would 
eat the freehold away ; they described Irish Tenant Right 
as an encroachment on the just rights of property. Instead, 
therefore, of vindicating and proposing to give the sanction 
of law to the joint ownership, which the Irish tenant often 
morally possessed, or, at least, advising that he ought to 
obtain an absolute title to the improvements he had made, 
and that going back for a long space of time, they practically 
ignored, or nearly so, his concurrent rights ; his position, 
they thought, ought, as far as possible, to be assimilated to 
that of the tenant in England, whose superior supplies 
permanent improvements to his farm. Complete justice, 
they conceived, would be done to the Irishman, were he 
to be compensated, under stringent conditions, for im- 
provements he might make in the future ; all that he had 

7/£ FAMINE 149 

done in the past was not to be taken into account, might 
be confiscated, in a word, should the landlord please. They 
thus attacked the Tenant Right of Ulster, and analogous 
rights in the other three provinces ; and their Report caused 
widespread discontent and alarm. 1 

Valuable as the work of the Devon Commission was, 
it proved itself to be in the suggestions it made, as regards 
the reform of the Irish land system, "a physician," in the 
pregnant language of Swift, "ignorant of the constitution 
of the patient, and the nature of his disease," no uncommon 
defect of Englishmen in Irish affairs. Stanley had by this 
time gone to the House of Lords ; he brought in a Bill 
founded on the proposals of the Report ; but it encountered 
opposition, and was allowed to drop. Peel's Irish measures 
had, therefore, nearly all failed ; and on the great subject 
of the Irish Land, the legislation he intended was a mere 
abortion, though it is to his credit that he was the first 
British minister who really touched the Question. Ireland 
was ere long doomed to pass through a terrible ordeal, one 
of the most appalling of which a record exists, an agony 
protracted through more than two years, which has left a 
permanent mark on its history. The potato, which fed the 
millions of the Irish poor, had always been a precarious 
root ; it had shown symptoms of decay over and over 
again ; in the autumn of 1845, it was suddenly stricken by 
a mysterious blight ; it failed wholly, or partially, in many 
districts. The aspect of the withered spaces or patches of 
tillage, which a spectator beheld in whole counties, was 
more than sufficient to cause alarm ; but if we recollect that 
this perishing root was the food of fully a third part of the 
Irish people, and was, indeed, almost their only means of 
subsistence, we can understand the immediate and universal 
panic that followed. A wail mournful, pathetic, and yet 
awful, went out, so to speak, from the heart of Ireland ; 
the land seemed smitten by one of the vials of wrath which 

1 This I can attest myself from boyish recollections. The Irish 
Land Question was also very" intelligently considered, at this time, by 
Mr. Campbell Foster, the Commissioner of the Times. 

150 IRELAND FROM 179& TO 1898 

we read of as instruments of Divine Vengeance ; and in a 
few weeks more than one county was brought, in many 
places, to the verge of famine, while all suffered from grave 
distress. The visitation was most severe in Connaught, and 
in the more backward parts of Munster, especially along the 
line of the coast, where the roads were few and bad, and the 
scattered villages could hardly supply the necessaries of life ; 
and unquestionably, even in 1845, an unknown number of 
victims died of starvation. But though the calamity was 
felt everywhere, it had not such fearful results in the more 
prosperous and thinly-peopled counties ; in these the crops 
of cereals were extremely good ; there was a remnant of the 
potatoes of the year before ; and nearly half the potato crop 
of 1845 was sav ed. But even at this juncture, Ireland might 
be compared to a ship stranded on rocks, amidst devouring 
waves, already sweeping away a part of the crew, while the 
remaining part looked out aghast for the morrow. 1 

The failure of the potato, strange as it may now seem, 
was altogether unexpected in the Three Kingdoms. In the 
presence of what threatened to be a dire catastrophe, the 
Government, as usually happens in grave crises, was beset 
by projectors of heroic remedies. The Parliament of that 
day would have scoffed at plans for preventing the export 
of corn from Ireland, or for prohibiting the use of grain 
in distilleries ; ideas such as these would have been deemed 
insanity. O'Connell, now with one foot in the grave, babbled 
about Repeal, almost for the last time, and declared for 
levying a crushing tax from Irish landlords, schemes — the 
last especially in conflict with the principles of a life — that 
were but the signs of senile decay. There was, also, a 
general demand, at least in Ireland, for the employment of 
the poor on Public Works, which ultimately would repay 
their cost ; much was to be said for a measure like this, 
nor was this policy wholly neglected ; but it may be 
observed that it would have been impossible to organise 

1 For an account of the great Irish famine of 1845-7, see Hansard, 
Disraeli's " Life of Lord George Bentinck," and the " Irish Crisis," by 
Sir C. Trevelyan. 



such a system, to any great extent, within the short time 
that was alone available. History will hardly deny that 
Peel did all that a wise and right-minded statesman could 
do in an emergency with which it was difficult in the 
extreme to cope. He properly rejected mere nostrums ; 
he properly trusted to the energies of private enterprise to f 
make provision, in the main, for the needs of Ireland. But/ 
he knew what the social life of Ireland was ; he understood 
that what has been called " the commercial principle " could 
not supply the wants of millions in distress, in a country 
with imperfect communications and little retail trade ; he 
sagaciously refused to apply to Ireland economic rules that 
might have worked well in England and Scotland. Inter- 
fering as little as possible with the free play of commerce, 
he caused considerable importations of maize to be secretly 
bought on the account of the Government ; these were sent 
out to the most distressed districts ; unquestionably they 
rescued many lives from death. A much greater problem, 
however, remained : How 7 were the Irish masses to procure 
the means of eking existence out where the potato had 
failed ? Peel set a system of Public Works on foot, for 
the most part of an unproductive kind — speculators were 
to be left to attempt reproductive works ; and thousands 
of peasants, in different parts of the country, were employed 
to labour in this way, at wages paid to them by the State. 
These works were to be voted by local bodies, and half the 
charge was to be imposed on the district ; the other half 
was to be borne by the nation as a whole. A small sum, _ 
too, was applied to the drainage of estates, and to other 
works of a reproductive nature. 

Owing to the preservation of much of the Irish harvest, 
and to the judicious precautions taken by Peel, the distress 
of 1845, cruel as it was, did not, except in a few districts, 
become a real famine. The failure of the potato, as is 
well known, was the immediate cause of the Repeal of the 
Corn Laws. This great event belongs to English rather- 
than to Irish history ; but Ireland in this, as in so many 
other instances, had a most important influence on British 

-IT IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

affairs. An Irish Question, too, precipitated the fall of Peel's 
celebrated Administration of 1841-6, one of the most power- 
ful this century has beheld. Partly through the distress 
which prevailed in Ireland, but also owing to the passions 
aroused by the collapse of the Repeal movement, there had 
been an outbreak of agrarian crime in the winter of 1845 ; 
and Peel, having returned to office, when Lord John Russell 
had refused to form a Government, submitted a measure of 
Irish Coercion to Parliament. The Whig Opposition and 
the mass of the Tories, now led by Disraeli and Lord George 
Bentinck, accepted the principles of the Bill at least ; but 
they seized an opportunity to overthrow Peel, and voted 
against the Bill on a frivolous pretext, which led to the 
resignation of the great Minister. Lord John Russell and 
the Whig party came into power ; and in a few months they 
were forced to confront a disaster in Ireland compared to 
which the distress of 1845 was well-nigh a trifle. The 
potato was blighted in every part of Ireland in July and 
August, 1846 ; it did not yield a twentieth part of its usual 
increase ; the crop of cereals, too, was excessively short ; the 
harvest, in a word, almost completely failed. The loss in 
money was estimated at sixteen millions sterling ; this may 
afford some idea of what the results were in a country already 
impoverished, and always very poor. Even in the best and 
most prosperous districts, society was disorganised in a short 
time ; there was a general calling in of debts and demands ; 
the landed gentry received but a fraction of rent ; hundreds 
of farmers of the better class became bankrupt ; thousands 
of peasants fled from their homes in despair. In less 
fortunate counties the consequences were, of course, more 
grave ; but in the districts which had suffered the year 
before, and in all those which were more or less backward, 
the condition of affairs became soon appalling. Famine 
advancing slowly from the coast line, from Donegal south- 
wards to Kerry and Cork, and gradually making its way 
inland, threw its dark shadow over a third part of Ireland ; 
starving multitudes were lifted up from the land and tossed 
to and fro to seek the means of prolonging life ; and 
thousands sank into unknown graves. 


Lord John Russell and his colleagues adopted, in the 
main, the Irish policy of Peel in this tremendous crisis. 
They rejected extravagant and wild projects ; they refused 
to set reproductive works on foot, at least for a considerable 
time ; they chiefly relied on private enterprise to find supplies 
of food for the masses of poverty. Unlike Peel, however, 
they did not introduce stores of food into the famished 
districts bought for the purpose at the expense of the 
Government ; they established depots of food at certain 
places ; but they trusted to the energies of commerce to keep 
these replenished. For this they have been severely con- 
demned ; but it would have been difficult in the extreme to 
follow a precedent, which must have been carried out on an 
immense scale, if really effective relief was to be given ; and the 
error, if error it was, was venial. But how were they to face 
the terrible question of supporting millions stricken with want 
and fourfold in numbers those who had been supported in 
1845 ? Here again the example set by Peel was before 
them ; they followed it, but with a marked difference. The 
local bodies which had voted unproductive works the year 
before, had been, it was said, wasteful ; the Government, 
therefore, obtained an Act — known as the famous Labour 
Rate Act — which enabled local bodies to vote the works, but 
imposed on the district the whole and not half the charge ; 
economy, it was thought, would thus be ensured. These 
considerations, however, were scattered to the winds as the 
stress of the dire visitation increased ; the local bodies voted 
unproductive works wholesale, without regard to what the 
burden might be, in order to save a people from famine. In 
the autumn and winter of 1846, whole counties of Ireland 
presented scenes never witnessed before in a civilised land. 
Thousands, nay, tens of thousands of peasants, marshalled 
in gangs, were set to make roads, as a rule useless, and, to 
this day, for the most part unfinished ; for this worthless 
labour they received the wages which were to keep their 
wives and children from death. The numbers thus em- 
ployed, by the spring of 1847, were considerably more than 
seven hundred thousand men, representing about three 

154 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

millions of souls ; the expense was not far from a million 
sterling a month. Eleven thousand functionaries were, so 
to speak, the officers of these multitudinous arrays of poverty 
which resembled " the invasion of some barbaric host appall- 
ing the trembling senators of Rome." 1 

This system of relief had saved lives by thousands ; but it 
was eating up the resources of a half-ruined land ; it even 
weighed heavily on the finances of the State ; it was neces- 
sarily demoralising and wasteful in the highest degree. 
Parliament met in the first months of 1847 J other remedies 
had to be found to deal with the Famine. The Labour Rate 
Act was allowed to drop ; the masses of pauper labour were 
gradually drawn from the roads ; but relief was afforded in 
the shape of cooked food, to be distributed in all parts of 
the country, through the agency of relief committees sup- 
ported by funds advanced by the State. Millions of human 
beings were rescued from starvation in this way, and a con- 
siderable saving in money was effected ; but the mortality 
among the old was very great, owing to the change from a 
root to a cereal diet. The Government turned their attention, 
also, to reproductive works, and endeavoured to promote 
these to some extent at least. They resisted, indeed, a great 
scheme of Lord George Bentinck, for constructing railways 
in Ireland, with public monies, in some respects analogous 
to that of Drummond ; but the state of the national finances 
made this all but hopeless ; and the project has been since 
generally condemned as unwise. The Government, how- 
ever, did sanction important measures for the improvement 
of estates by loans for drainage, and by advances to the Board 
of Irish Public Works ; but for a mere accident they would 
have approved of a considerable loan to Irish railways ; 2 
it is untrue to assert that they made no effort to encourage 
reproductive works at this juncture. The great measure of 
Lord John Russell's Ministry, that on which they mainly 
relied to cope successfully, in the long run, with Irish dis- 

1 Disraeli's " Life of Lord George Bentinck," p. 367. 

2 A sum of ^620,000 was, in fact, voted by Parliament in a subsequent 


tress, was a large extension of the Irish Poor Law, under 
conditions of a very peculiar kind. Long before this time 
the Poor Houses had been crammed with inmates flying 
from their homes to escape from death ; but relief out of 
doors was not permitted by the law ; and the Poor Law 
system had completely failed to deal with an emergency 
never foreseen. Relief out of doors was now made lawful ; 
and a considerable addition to the liability for rates was 
imposed on the impoverished owners of the soil. Poor law 
relief, however, was, with rare exceptions, made subject to 
an extremely severe condition ; no one occupying more than 
a quarter of an acre of land could make a claim to receive 
support from the State. The policy of this enactment was 
plain ; it established a stringent test of poverty, and checked 
numberless undue applications for relief ; but it was con- 
sidered too harsh by Lord Bessborough, the Lord-Lieu- 
tenant, an able man, who understood Ireland, and the owner 
himself of large Irish estates. The results of the making of 
u the quarter-acre clause," as it was called, soon became 
manifest in many parts of Ireland. Peasants were compelled 
in thousands to give up their little holdings, in order to 
qualify for relief ; emigration, already large, set in on an 
enormous scale, and became ere long that Exodus of the 
Irish people which has so powerfully affected the state of 
the country. The petty occupiers of the soil, in fact, were 
practically dispossessed by the State in multitudes ; for one 
victim at the hands of landlords there were probably fifty 
through the operation of the law. 

The harvest of 1847 was go°d ; but Ireland hardly began 
to revive until, at least, twelve or fourteen months after- 
wards. How many victims succumbed to famine, and to 
disease and fever following in its train, it is impossible 
to learn from any known evidence ; but they must have 
numbered thousands, nay, tens of thousands. Enclosed 
spaces at Skibbereen, and near other towns, mark the 
sepulchres of hundreds who perished ; more significant 
still were the sad solitudes where the population literally 
melted away. The protracted agony presented the various 

156 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

spectacles repeatedly seen in terrible crises, when humai 
nature escapes from the trammels of routine, and under 
the stress of a cruel trial, exhibits itself in its genuine 
aspects. Sublime resignation appeared and inhuman selfish- 
ness, charity zealous of good works and the basest greed, 
the Christian and the shopkeeping spirit ; but the better 
qualities of our race were far the most conspicuous. The 
attitude of the great mass of the people was one of patience 
and submission to the Divine Will ; the domestic virtues 
which mark the Irish character, were never, perhaps, made 
more manifest. The division of classes, too, which keep 
Irishmen apart, were, to a considerable extent, effaced ; 
landlords and tenants pulled together in many districts to 
minister to the wants of the poor ; the clergy of the Estab- 
lished Church and the Catholic priesthood co-operated 
earnestly in the work of relief. Most remarkable of all, 
perhaps, was the world-wide assistance given to Ireland in 
her distress, by many nations and lands. England and 
Scotland contributed enormous sums ; but what was less 
to be expected, help came from all parts of Europe, nay, 
from the Turkish Empire ; and the United States were 
prominent in lavish kindness. As for the Irish landed 
gentry their conduct deserves notice, for it was misrepre- 
sented at the time, and has been so ever since. A small 
minority, terrified by what they beheld, and yielding to an 
idea widely prevalent, that the small farmer must be removed 
from the land, his means of subsistence having failed, did 
resort to eviction in too many instances ; but in this they 
only imitated what was really being done by the State. 
But the immense majority abstained from eviction, and 
often remitted afterwards the rents they did not press for ; 
and the beneficence of the great Irish landlords was, in 
many cases, princely. 1 A bitter enemy of the order wrote 
thus of its acts, during the ordeal of 1846-7 : " The resident 
landlords and their families did, in many cases, devote 
themselves to the task of saving their poor people alive. 

1 See as to the conduct of Lord Waterf ord, " The Two Noble Lives," 
of Mr. Hare. — 


Many remitted their rents, or half their rents ; and ladies 
kept their servants busy, and their kitchens smoking with 
continual preparation of food for the poor." x 

Lord John Russell's Government were fiercely assailed by 
agitators and sciolists for what they did in this Famine ; 
but History pronounces a different verdict. They certainly 
committed several mistakes ; they might, perhaps, have 
purchased food after the fashion of Peel ; they squandered 
money on utterly useless works, and relied too long on the 
Labour Rate Act ; they may have considered the subject of 
reproductive works with too strict a regard to economic 
doctrines. But they were in the rig*:-; on relying mainly 
on the action of commerce and of private enterprise for 
bringing the necessaries of life to the Irish poor ; those who 
condemn them for this only disclose their ignorance. The 
policy of the Ministry, with respect to the quarter-acre 
clause of the Poor Law, was just in principle, but, in 
existing circumstances, was, no doubt, too harsh ; and this 
and their neglect in not directing and regulating the 
immense emigration that ensued — a subject on which we 
shall comment afterwards — were probably the only parts 
of their conduct which appear to be open to serious 
question. They manfully resolved, on the other hand, to 
save Ireland from the fell grasp of Famine ; and in this 
gigantic task they, on the whole, succeeded ; thousands 
perished, but the millions were saved. Their acts and 
those of the Imperial Parliament stand in marked contrast 
with those of the Irish Parliament in the Famine, perhaps 
as disastrous, of 1739-41. The Imperial Parliament voted 
immense sums for the support of the destitute Irish masses, 
and a considerable part of these were a free gift ; the Irish 
Parliament, not only did nothing in the shape of public 
and general relief, but passed a law for the better enforce- 
ment of rent ! 

O'Connell had died while the country he loved had been 
lying, as it were, in the shadow of death. He had reached 
the summit of renown, in the eyes of Europe, when he 
1 Mitchell's " History of Ireland/' vol. ii. p. 2 J 3. 

158 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

conducted the Repeal movement of 1843 ; within three 
years he was a broken old man, who had seen the cause 
he upheld fail, and Ireland in the extreme of misfortune. 
His closing days were saddened by the wretched divisions / 
which destroyed the once formidable party he led ; by the ) 
annihilation of his towering hopes ; he had almost ceased / 
to exist before the end came. He appeared in the House ^ 
of Commons, for the last time, in the beginning of 1847 > 
but he was but the phantom of the tribune of the past ; 
the words he faintly uttered were an appeal to save Ireland 
from famine. 1 He passed away in the spring of that year, 
mourned by thousands of still faithful followers ; he / 
bequeathed his ashes to his countrymen, his heart to Rome, \ 

true to the faith to which he had been devoted in life. It 
is difficult to form a just estimate of his career ; for 
Englishmen have never been just to him ; Ireland has / 
seldom been grateful to her few great men ; and he was a < 
star that rose but to sink in dismal eclipse. But O'C jnnell I 
was the foremost man of Catholic Ireland ; his gifts were | 
of the highest order, if marred by many flaws and defects ; •. 
and Catholic Ireland owes an incalculable debt to him. 
Not the least important and valuable passage in his life 
was his alliance with the Whigs, from 1835 to 1840 ; he ] 
powerfully contributed to good government in Irish affairs ; j 
he reconciled Irishmen, at least for a time, to their rulers. 
His conduct in the Repeal movement is less easy to judge ; j 
but it is absolutely certain that he never aimed at separating j 
Ireland from Great Eritain ; his ideal was the restoration of , 
the old Irish Parliament, an ideal that may have appeared 
attainable to a spectator of the events of 178?. For the 
rest the recklessness of O'Connell's language., and the 
attitude he often assumed in the House of Commons, 
whatever the provocation, deserve censure ; and a more 
high-minded and sensitive man would not have surrounded 
himself with a " Tail " of obsequious satellites. But O'Connell 

* This pathetic scene is well described 5a Disraeli's " Life of Lord G. 
Bentinck," pp. 159-60. But the-date should be 1847, not, as in that work, 

THE RISING OF 1848 159 

was a truly religious man ; he was a Conservative in his 
essential nature ; he hated revolutionary and socialistic 
ideas ; he might play the demagogue, but was not a dema- 
gogue at heart. Had he lived in these days, he would have 
summarily put down the mannikin traders in the worst 
kind of faction, who pretend that they tread in a giant's 
footsteps. 1 

The smouldering feud between O'Connell and Young 
Ireland had become an envenomed quarrel before his death. » 

The first open rupture took place on the subject of the I 

" Queen's Colleges " ; O'Connell echoed the phrase of " god- 
less"; Davis and his colleagues, willing to try the experi- / 
ment of education on the " United" principle and hostile to / 
the pretensions of the Catholic Bishops, supported the 
scheme under certain conditions. O'Connell and the priest- 
hood roundly denounced them ; and other causes of dispute 

3 Greville, a hostile, but discriminating witness, wrote thus of t j 

O'Connell (" Memoirs/' vol. vi. p. 88) : " History will speak of him as one ( 

of the most remarkable men who ever existed ; he will fill a great space in 
its pages, his position was unique ; there never was before, and there 
never will be again, anything at all resembling it. To rise from the 
humblest extraction to the height of Empire, like Napoleon, is no 
uncommon destiny ; there have been innumerable successful adven- 
turers and usurpers ; but there never was a man who, without altering 
his social position in the slightest, without obtaining any office or 
station whatever, raised himself to a height of political power which 
gave him an enormous capacity for good or evil, and made him the 
most important and conspicuous man of his time and country. It 
would not be a very easy matter to do him perfect justice. A careful 
examination of his career, and an accurate knowledge of his character, 
would be necessary for the purpose. It is impossible to question the 
greatness of his abilities, or the sincerity of his patriotism. His 
dependence on his country's bounty, in the rent that was levied for so 
many years, was alike honourable to the contributors and the recipient ; 
it was an income nobly given and nobly earned. Up to the conquest 
of Catholic Emancipation his was a great and glorious career. What 
he might have done, and what he ought to have done after that, it is i 

not easy to say, but undoubtedly he did tar more mischief than good, 
and exhibited anything but a wise, generous, and patriotic spirit. In 
Peel's Administration he did nothing out mischief, and it is difficult 
to comprehend with what object and what hope he threw Ireland into 
i confusion." 

160 IRELAND FROM 179S TO 1898 

arose, especially as to the application of the Repeal Rent, 
which O'Connell had kept in his hands and disbursed. 
Smith O'Brien tried to prevent these squalid discords ; and, 
indeed, played a conspicuous part in Irish affairs at this 
time. He was a landed gentleman of good family and 
estate ; he had began life as a Whig, of the school of 
Grattan ; but as we have seen, he had joined the Repeal 
movement perhaps through indignation at O'Connell's trial. 
He was received by the great agitator with open arms, and 
welcomed as a leader of the Irish cause ; and during the 
months of O'Connell's detention the Repeal Association 
acknowledged him as its nominal head. In the period of 
the Famine he distinguished himself very honourably in good 
works of chanty 7 but his nature was impulsive and ill- 
balanced ; and he made himself remarkable by proposing 
schemes of relief to which Parliament and the Government 
could not, in justice, listen. He became extravagant in his 
demands, and offensive ; and though his speeches were 
treated with good-natured contempt, his wounded vanity 
often found vent in treasonable words. His efforts to 
reconcile O'Connell and Young Ireland failed ; and ulti- 
mately he threw in his lot with Young Ireland, which distinctly 
charged O'Connell with having made a compact with the 
Whigs on the formation of Lord John Russell's Government. 
From this time forward the Rump of the Repeal Pa~ty, now 
led by one of O'Connell's sons, as the great tribune was 
succumbing to disease, and Young Ireland became invete- 
rate fees; the Repeal Association practically disappeared, 
and the Repeal movement came, even in name, to an end, 
in a land desolated by distress and famine. The Catholic 
hierarchy and priesthood, however, did not the less 
pursue Young Ireland with sacerd )tal hate. 

A section of the Young Ireland party had begun, mean- 
while, to conspire against the State, and to enter on a wild 
revolutionary coarse. Davis, the real leader, had died before 
his time ; Duffy had confined himself to the work of the 
Nation ;. after the breach with O'Connell, violent men, 
indignant at ihe collapse of the Repeal agitation, and at 

THE RISING OF 1848 161 

what they described as the " murderous policy " of an " alien 
government," during the Famine, came to the front and 
acquired very marked influence over a party that from the 
first had rejected the " moral force" doctrine. The principal 
of these was J ohn Mitche M, a Presbyterian of Ulster, and a 
professed rebel; Thomas Francis Meagher, afterwards a 
brilliant soldier, and a rhetorician of no ordinary power ; and, 
last but not least, John Finton Lalor, an obscure newspaper 
writer, but an able man, who had read and thought much 
on Irish affairs, and who, true to the faith of the extreme 
United Irishmen, pronounced for rebellion backed by 
agrarian plunder, and maintained that, in this combination, 
lay the only hope of success. One circumstance seemed 
to favour the new movement, which begun to make itself 
felt at the close of 1847. The Famine had checked agrarian 
disorder ; in the struggle for existence troubles of this kind 
had ceased, though, as was to be expected, there had been 
a great deal of ordinary crime, robberies, burglaries, and 
attacks on property, which the Executive, however, had easily 
dealt with. But as soon as the worst of the distress had 
passed away, agrarian disturbance began to revive ; the 
secret societies regained power ; and Whiteboyism and 
Ribbonism appeared once more, for these movements in 
Ireland, it has often been observed, are inspired rather by 
revengeful passion than by want, and are not the usual out- 
breaks of mere reckless poverty. Mitchell and his followers 
found this machinery made to their hands ; and a rebellious 
conspiracy made by degrees some progress in three or four 
counties. For a time, however, the movement had scarcely 
any force ; it was steadily condemned by the Catholic priest- 
hood, who detested Young Ireland and all its works, and by 
O'Connell's remaining adherents, who warned their hearers 
against " the counsels of 1798." 

Two accidents gave a distinct impulse to the conspiracy 
in the first months of 1848. The Chartists threatened a 
rising in England ; the French Revolution, soon to 
convulse the Continent, had subverted the existing order 
of things in a great country to which disaffected 


162 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

Ireland had through centuries looked for support and 
sympathy. In an evil hour Smith O'Brien recklessly 
joined men whose worst designs he abhorred in his 
heart ; he headed a deputation to the chiefs of the new 
French Republic ; but though Lamartine dropped a few 
honeyed words, he had no notion of involving France in a 
war with England, or even of giving countenance to Irish 
treason. The House of Commons naturally broke out in 
wrath when Smith O'Brien made his appearance in it ; the 
unfortunate dupe of vanity and pique now became the 
ostensible leader of the rebellious movement. The con- 
spiracy assumed, in the main, the form of the United Irish 
conspiracy of 1795-8, itself fashioned on the model of 
Jacobin France. A central confederation existed in Dublin, 
and had affiliated societies in several districts which were to 
provide the " armed plant of rebellion." Bodies of men 
were enrolled under the name of " National Guards " ; fire- 
arms were collected and pikes fabricated in large quantities. 
A regular plan of operations was laid down ; clubs were 
organised in a number of towns and villages ; and the 
peasantry were called on to "hold the harvest," and to resist 
by force, or otherwise, the process of the law. The rising 
was postponed until September, when the rebel com- 
missariat could obtain supplies ; the Castle was to be attacked 
as in 1641 and 1798 ; the capital was to be given up to 
plunder and anarchy. A savage Press of the Jacobin type, 
of which Mitchell was the master spirit, excited the worst 
passions of man by the worst appeals. 

The Lord-Lieutenant, at this time, was the late Lord 
Clarendon, a ruler who had only just come to Ireland, but 
a statesman and a capable man of action. The army in 
Ireland was considerably increased ; precautions were taken 
for the defence of Dublin ; the Lord-Lieutenant, it has been 
said, secretly armed Orangemen, a questionable policy, even 
in an emergency of the kind. As the virulence of the 
seditious Press became worse, and the objects of the con- 
spiracy were developed, Smith O'Brien, Meagher, and 
Mitchell were arrested and tried ; the prosecutions against 

THE RISING OF 1848 163 

the two first failed, but Mitchell was convicted and justly 
transported. The summer had now come ; it was high 
time to put down a movement, hopeless indeed, but not the 
less to be condemned. Parliament strengthened the im- 
perfect law of High Treason, and suspended the Habeas 
Corpus Act ; this gave the Irish Executive the power it 
required, and warrants were issued for the capture of Smith 
O'Brien and his chief followers. The purpose of the 
Government was to force the conspiracy to a head, before 
the conspirators could secure the harvest ; it was the policy 
of Clare, in 1798, but a legitimate policy carried out without 
a single act of cruelty. Smith O'Brien and other rebel 
leaders fled ; they roamed hopelessly through different parts 
of the country urging the people " to rise in the cause of 
Ireland " ; but the time appointed for the rising had not 
come ; the clubs, probably affrighted, refused to stir ; the 
peasantry, adjured by their priests, stood impassively aloof. 
Smith O'Brien was entreated by his desperate followers to 
give the signal of a war against landlords and the payment of 
rent ; but it is to his credit that he turned a deaf ear to them. 
Finding himself without any real support he attacked, with a 
handful of half-armed boys, a small constabulary force ; his 
associates dispersed, and, in a short time, he was arrested 
with other rebel leaders. He was condemned to death with 
Meagher and several of his chief adherents ; but the 
sentences were commuted, and he ultimately received a 
pardon ; the rising, in fact, was a mere flash in the pan, and 
did not call for vengeance at the hands of the Government. 
One of the last acts of a tragic farce was a free fight between 
a body of O'Connell's followers and adherents of the 
Young Ireland party, which Thackeray has described with 
characteristic wit. 

The Irish rebellion of 1848 was treated with ridicule and 
contempt in England ; but an armed rising was no doubt 
planned ; r and the result might have been very different had 

x Gre ville " Memoirs " (vol. vi. p. 226), significantly says : " The outbreak 
was within an ace of taking place, and seems to have been prevented by 
an accident and by fhe pusillanimity or prudence of the Clubs. They 

164 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

the Government held its hand until the autumn, or even 
had Smith O'Brien let agrarian disorder loose. The 
rebellion, however, had never a chance of success ; the 
Catholic clergy denounced it from the outset ; it had no 
hold on the great mass of the people. It left few apparent 
traces behind ; Ireland continued at rest for many years 
afterwards, a rest, however, largely due to her social con- 
dition. Yet the rebellion was not without permanent 
results, which developed themselves in the fulness of time. 
John Finton Lalor, we have said, had studied Irish History ; 
he had seen how hopeless Irish revolutionary movements 
had been, unless linked with an agrarian movement ; how 
completely the cause of Repeal had failed, and every effort to 
assail the Union, because they had not been associated 
with attacks on the rights of the landed gentry. He left, so 
to speak, a legacy of advice to those who might succeed 
him. " The people," he wrote in substance, " do not 
care to subvert the British Government ; you cannot move 
them by talk against the Union ; what they want is the land 
of Ireland for themselves ; if, therefore, you wish to shake 
British rule in Ireland, you must link a revolutionary with 
a socialistic movement, and hound on the peasantry against 
their landlords — the real English garrison." These ideas, at 
this period, were not noticed ; they were ultimately to bear 
the expected fruit. 

We need not recur to Peel's Irish reforms. They did not 
permanently affect Ireland ; they have not fulfilled their 
author's purpose. The Devon Commission was ultimately 

had established a very perfect club organisation, and were in a state of 
great preparation, but had resolved not to rise until September. When 
the suspension of the Habeas Corpus was proposed, Smith O'Brien and 
the other leaders saw that they must proceed to action instantly, or 
that they would be taken up, and they proceeded to Carrick, addressed 
the people, and asked them if they were ready ; they said they were, 
but the clubs must be consulted ; he sent to the clubs, but a small body 
of troops having marched to Carrick the same day, the clubs were 
intimidated and refused their consent to the rising. This put an extin- 
guisher on the whole thing ; if the clubs had consented many thousands 
would have poured down the hills." 


THE RISING OF 1848 165 

of great importance ; it prepared the way for large changes 
in the Irish land system ; but for the present it had few 
visible results. The Famine is by far the most memorable 
event in this period of Irish History ; it transformed, in 
the long run, the social state of Ireland, with consequences 
we shall ere long notice. Whatever may be said by factious 
malice, or by ignorance that disregards facts, the calamity 
was generously dealt with by the British Government, and, 
in the main, on correct principles ; mistakes and short- 
comings may, no doubt, be dwelt on ; but a people was 
saved that could not have saved itself. The abortive rising 
of 1848 was an exhibition of folly and wrong ; it was looked 
upon in England as a manifestation of base ingratitude ; 
it contributed to increase the estrangement from Ireland, 
which had been going on for many years. 


FROM 1848 TO 1868 

The Irish Exodus— Sufferings of the emigrants — Mistake of the 
Government — Aversion to Ireland felt in England — The Rate in Aid 
Act — The Encumbered Estates Act — Results of this measure — 
The Queen's visit to Ireland in 1849 — The Tenant Right 
Movement of 1850-52 — Its progress and failure— The National 
system of Education, and the Queen's Colleges condemned at 
the Synod of Thurles — The Census of 1851 and subsequent years — 
Revival of Ireland after the Famine in 1853 an d afterwards — 
Growth of material prosperity — Social progress — Comparative 
tranquillity and order — State of landed relations — The Irish 
representation in Parliament — Cardinal Cullen and the Catholic 
Church in Ireland — The tranquillity of the country largely 
deceptive — Omens of future evils — Influence of the American- 
Irish on the people at home — Mischievous results — James 
Stephens and the Phoenix Society — Changes in the fiscal 
system of Ireland from 1853 to i860 — The Income Tax imposed — 
The spirit duties raised — Great increase of taxation — Injustice of 
this policy — The Irish movement in America — Fenianism — Its 
characteristics — Secret societies in America and Ireland — Their 
operations — Arrest of Fenian leaders in 1865 — Abortive Fenian 
risings — Attack on Chester Castle — The Manchester executions and 
the Clerkenwell explosion. 

Ireland, cruelly scathed, had been saved from famine ; the 

petty rising of 1848 had failed. Years, however, were to 

pass before society, shaken to its base, and being largely 

transformed, was to return to anything resembling 

a settled state, and was to present even a sign of progress. 

From 1848 to 1851 the most marked phenomenon in Irish 

affairs was the emigration of the people in great masses 

from each of the four Provinces, indeed, but especially 


FROM 1848 TO 1868 167 

from Connaught and the South of Minister, the scenes 
of the worst calamities of 1845-7. The Irish Exodus, as 
it was rightly called, was, almost everywhere, a spectacle of 
many woes. In many places families of peasants of the 
better classes toiled painfully in troops along the roads, 
fleeing, with their household stuff, as before an invading 
army. Crowds of the victims of harsh ejection, or of the more 
pitiless measures of the State, could be seen huddled in 
spots where there was a chance of shelter, on their way from 
their ruined homes to the nearest seaport. The workhouse 
and the fever-shed in country towns sent out their inmates 
to join the departing hosts ; there was not a village that did 
not add to the tale of the exiles. Numbers of these 
waifs and strays of a dire catastrophe made their way to 
the great cities of England and Scotland, sinking to the 
lowest depths of the social life around them ; some, more 
fortunate, reached the Australian Colonies, or settled beside 
primeval forests in the wilds of Canada. But the over- 
whelming majority found a refuge in the United States, for 
more than a century the land of the Irish emigrant ; they 
swarmed into the chief towns of the great Republic ; they 
created the new Ireland in the Far West, which has so 
powerfully affected our more recent history. The 
sufferings of these multitudes, in the long voyage across the 
Atlantic, were simply appalling. The noble steamers of 
this age did not yet exist ; the passage was usually made in 
small sailing ships, in hundreds of instances not seaworthy. 
The emigrants were abandoned to the tender mercies of 
merchants not subject to control by the State ; as the. 
demands of misery far exceeded the means of transport, the 
consequences may be easily guessed at. The emigrants 
were crowded into the worst kind of vessels, without 
sufficient supplies of even the coarsest food, without regard 
to health, comfort, or even common decency, and thousands 
perished in the terrible transit. It was not until a noble- 
hearted Irishman — history preserves the name of Stephen 
De Vere l — braved in person, over and over again, the 
1 This distinguished man is still living. 

168 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

horrors of worse than any middle passage, and spoke out in 
tones that went home to thousands of minds, that the 
Government turned their attention to an awful subject. 

It would, no doubt, have been a gigantic task had the 
State undertaken to direct and arrange the emigration of 
these huge masses ; it is questionable if it would not have 
been impossible. But the Government might have 
controlled the greed of merchants ; they might have insisted 
on regulations being made to secure life and health for 
these crowds of emigrants ; these precautions, in fact, have 
been taken afterwards. Unfortunately the creed of 
" Laissez faire " prevailed in the National Councils ; it was 
not properly applicable to a grave emergency ; unquestion- 
ably it had disastrous results ; and this was the worst error, 
we believe, of Lord John Russell's Ministry in the terrible 
crisis of this period. Nothing, perhaps, contributed so much 
to the fierce resentment which burned in the hearts of 
thousands of Irishmen, as the apparent neglect of the State 
in this matter ; it left the bitterest memories which still 
survive. But unhappily at this time, and for years after- 
wards, the mind of England had turned against Ireland ; a *] 
growing estrangement had become aversion. Englishmen 
believed they had done great things for Ireland ; they were 
incensed at the rising of 1848 ; * and the Whig Govern- 
ment, not unmindful of the effects of the alliance with 
O'Connell in 1836-41, were far from overburdened with Irish 
sympathies. And Ireland, at this juncture, was not able to 
make its influence really felt in Parliament, or to resist 
legislation against its interests. The remnant of O'Connell's 
" Tail " was a flock without a shepherd, straying to and 
fro without aim or purpose ; his ablest followers were for 

1 Greville "Memoirs" (vol. vi. pp. 212-16), wrote as follows in 1848 : 
"The Irish will look in vain to England, for no subscriptions or Parliamen- 
tary grants will they get ; the sources of charity and benevolence are dried 
up ; the current which flowed last year has been effectually checked by 
the brutality of the people and the rancorous fury and hatred with 
which they have met new exertions to serve them. . . . England will 
not be softened towards Ireland, but contempt will be added to 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 169 

the most part gratified Whigs ; the Liberal Irish Protestant 
gentry — the best Irish element in the House of Commons — 
had largely disappeared, Orangeism had lifted its head 
since the late rising, and had sent many representatives from 
the North into Parliament. Ireland was never more divided, 
weak, and helpless ; she was prostrate, too, from the effects 
of the Famine ; her public opinion, never really strong, 
had practically been reduced to impotence. The Irish 
representation, besides, was pervaded by an atmosphere of 
corruption, place-hunting and jobbing ; this was especially 
the case in the small boroughs, which returned far more 
than a due proportion of members ; this tendency had 
increased because the Electorate had been diminished in an 
extraordinary degree. At no time perhaps, were Irish public 
men more despised and demoralised. 

Legislation was before long to show how English opinion 
was setting against Ireland. Nearly half of the Irish 
Unions had become bankrupt, their resources exhausted by 
the strain laid on them through the Famine and the lately 
enacted Poor Law ; a law was made, known as the Rate in 
Aid Act, which compelled the solvent Irish Unions to 
supply the deficit. If the principle of this scheme was 
legitimate, it ought not to have been confined to Ireland, it 
should have been extended to England at least ; but, while 
Wexford and Kildare were made liable to contribute to the 
needs of Mayo and Galway, Surrey and Sussex were not to 
bear the burden. This measure was simply grotesque 
injustice ; no serious excuse was ever made for it. Un- 
doubtedly a large part of the advances made by the 
Treasury in 1846-7 were remitted ; but Lord John Russell 
had properly said that the charge for the Famine in these 
years was to be an Imperial charge ; and, in any case, 
nothing could justify the imposition on Irish Unions alone, 
of rates subsequently made by other Irish Unions, which 
these found it impossible to pay. 1 The Rate in Aid Act, 

1 Greville (" Memoirs," vol. vi. p. 279) informs us that the Government 
were divided on the question of the Rate in Aid. Lord Lansdowne, a 
great Irish proprietor, protested against it ; and one of the Irish Poor 

170 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

however, was nothing compared to a huge measure of con- 
fiscation of the Irish Land, which became law in 1849-50. 
The Irish landed gentry had, as a class, heavily charged 
their estates, in some instances owing to wasteful excess, in 
the immense majority for the support of their families ; 
and as the value of their land had been increasing for years, 
these encumbrances often seemed to be not extravagant. 
The Famine, however, and all that it brought in its train, had 
ruined this order of men in hundreds ; their rentals had half 
disappeared, their debts were unchanged ; and, besides that, 
it had long lost its old power and influence, the class stood 
very ill in English opinion, because a few of its members 
had been oppressive, it being conveniently forgotten that 
the State had been the cause of the dispossession of the 
Irish peasant, in infinitely more cases than the decried land- 
lord. In these circumstances, the time seemed come for 
making a grand experiment on the Irish land system. The 
process of selling encumbered estates in Ireland had always 
been tedious and costly in the extreme ; this, indeed, was, 
perhaps, one main reason that so many encumbered estates 
existed. At the instigation of Peel, for some time their 
mentor, the Government proposed to transfer these lands, 
wholesale and quickly, by a summary process ; to throw 
them upon the market in a mass ; and to hand them over to 
a new race of owners, more fitted, it was assumed, to dis- 
charge the duties of property. The object of this policy, 
Lord Clarendon announced, was to " sell these encumbered 
estates cheap," and to attract to them " English and 
Scotch purchasers," who, it was taken for granted, would do 
them justice, and improve the state of the peasantry on 
them. A new plantation, in a word, was to be made in 
Ireland, like the Plantations of James 1. and Cromwell, but 
by the peaceful methods of the nineteenth century. 1 

Law Commissioners resigned his office. The measure was compared 
to the medieval expedients of taxing the Jews for the relief of 

1 Greville (" Memoirs," vol. vi. p. 274) describes the spirit which 
prompted this legislation : — " Charles Wood contemplates . . . that 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 171 

In accordance with these views, Parliament passed a 
statute, almost without a dissentient voice, but described by 
a great equity lawyer, Sugden, as " removing from property 
the wise safeguards which the Habeas Corpus Act had 
secured for persons." At this time hundreds of encumbered 
estates had passed into the power of the Court of Chancery ; 
this was the only tribunal through which they could be sold ; 
and the process, we have said, was tardy and costly, for 
almost any encumbrancer could delay a sale, and the 
difficulties of making out titles were great. The Encum- 
bered Estates Act changed this whole order of things ; it 
created a Court for the special purpose of selling embar- 
rassed landlords out ; it empowered the pettiest creditor to 
force a sale ; and it gave purchasers of estates of this kind an 
absolutely indefeasible title, discharged from all claims but 
those recorded in the deed of conveyance. The results were 
such as were to be expected, when property worth many 
millions was awaiting sale ; when Ireland was impoverished 
and in extreme distress, and when the avowed policy of the 
Legislature and the Government was to transfer these estates 
cheaply at all possible speed. Lands at rentals of hundreds 
of thousands a year were suddenly brought into a half-closed 
market ; creditors, struck with panic, called in their 
demands, without hesitation, scruple, or pity ; and the 
Commission appointed to carry out this policy proved 
perfectly equal to fulfil its mission. Estates valued a few 
years before at more than twenty years' purchase, sold for 
half or even a third of that sum ; many honourable 
families of the landed gentry which, but for the law, would 
have been saved, disappeared from their ancestral homes ; 
thousands of creditors lost debts once perfectly secure. 
Confiscation, however, did not stop at what was above ; it 

fresh havoc should be made amongst the landed proprietors, that the 
price of land will at last fall so low as to tempt capitalists to invest their 
funds therein, and then that the country will begin to revive, and a new 
condition of prosperity spring from the ruin of the present possessors. 
This may, supposing it to answer, prove the ultimate regeneration of 

172 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

made its evil effects felt in what was below. In the case of 
most of these estates, as throughout Ireland, the occupying 
tenants had improved their farms, and had acquired con- 
current rights in them ; these rights, sometimes amounting 
to joint ownership, were ruthlessly destroyed by the provision 
in the Act which gave purchasers a perfect title exempt 
from such claims. The spoliations of the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries did not do such a wrong as this ; they 
affected only the owners of the soil, they did not reach the 
classes beneath them. 

These proceedings went on for three or four years ; until, 
as was indignantly said, the land of Ireland had been flung, 
like a fox, to a pack of ravening hounds. The march of 
rapine slackened by degrees, as the supply of estates for 
the hammer fell short, and Ireland slowly began to revive ; 
the price of land ultimately rose to its normal standard, 
and even considerably increased in the course of time. 
The Encumbered Estates Act was, however, renewed ; and 
from 1850 to the present day, about one-sixth part of the soil 
of Ireland has been transferred under the provisions of the 
law. What have been the consequences of this great 
experiment ; how have the previsions of its authors been 
fulfilled ? x A profoundly immoral policy does not often 
succeed ; confiscation in Ireland has usually found a 
Nemesis. English and Scotch capital has reached the Irish 
Land ; but it has reached it in the form of huge mortgages, a 
foreign drain on its resources of the most exhausting kind ; 
but English and Scotch purchasers have hardly ever 
appeared to make the wastes of Ireland blossom like a rose, 
and to diffuse wealth and comfort through a contented 
peasantry. Nine-tenths, certainly, of the estates that were 
sold fell into the hands of needy Irishmen of the mercan- 
tile or the shop-keeping class, without the associations 
peculiar to landed gentry ; and their conduct was natural to 
such a class. Many of these purchasers bought cheap to 

1 Greville (" Memoirs," vol. vi. p. 321) remarks : "■ Clarendon told me 
he expected the Encumbered Estates Act would prove the regenera- 
tion of Ireland." 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 173 

sell again in time, and became jobbers in land of the worst 
type ; but the immense majority bought to retain their pos- 
sessions, and proved themselves to be the true successors of 
the previously almost extinct middleman, the historical 
oppressor of the Irish peasant. The means by which these 
speculators made their bargains were characteristic and 
deserve notice. They usually borrowed half the purchase 
money, and instantly raised their tenants' rents in order to 
meet the accruing interest ; and as the tenants had no rights 
under the law, they were compelled to submit to what was 
a wrong in almost every instance. Most of the cases of 
harsh eviction, of rack-renting, and of other misdeeds, which 
have been laid to the charge of Irish landlords during the 
last forty years, may be ascribed to this order of men ; 
they are deeply responsible for the numberless ills that have 
followed. The Encumbered Estates Act, and all that has 
flowed from it, ought to be a warning to British statesmen 
not rashly to meddle with the Irish Land, a subject they have 
meddled with, nevertheless, from the days of Elizabeth to 
the present hour, usually with the result of making bad 

In the summer of 1849 Queen Victoria visited Ireland for 
the first time. The troubles of 1848 were but a thing of 
yesterday ; a rebellious faction still hid its head in Dublin ; 
the Exodus was in full swing with its woeful scenes ; the 
country was stricken with poverty and distress ; there was 
much social and even agrarian disorder. It might have 
been expected that the Sovereign would not have met a 
welcome reception ; but apprehensions of the kind proved 
to be happily baseless. The Queen, it is true, did not see 
much of Ireland ; she made no progress through the 
disturbed districts ; her visit was one of a few days only. 
But her appearance in the Irish capital gave the signal of 
an enthusiastic greeting ; impoverished as the landed gentry 
were, they flocked to the Court in large numbers ; shouting 
multitudes joined in a chorus of applause ; the few tokens 
of disloyalty that struggled into light only made the uni- 
versal acclaim more manifest. The visit was repeated 

174 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

in 1853 and in 1861, on both occasions with the same 
rejoicings ; it is to be regretted that the Queen has not 
presented herself more frequently to her Irish subjects. 
It is sheer ignorance or flattery to pretend that royal 
pageants can make Ireland forget her history, can minister 
to a mind diseased with evil memories, can turn disaffection 
into loyal content, can reconcile Ireland to British rule, as 
if by enchantment. But from the days of Hannibal to those 
of Napoleon, the Celt has been devoted to rulers of men ; his 
genius attaches itself to persons and not to things ; Henry 
of Anjou showed his politic wisdom in winning the hearts of 
the Irish chiefs at the Conquest ; his successors might well 
have followed the example he set. Nor can we doubt that 
the presence on the spot, in Ireland, of the personifica- 
tion of the " divinity " of the Crown would have had a 
powerful effect on Irish nature ; it would have touched 
chords of feeling in the Irish heart ; it would have smoothed 
away asperities in Irish government, and given it a dignity 
and grace it does not possess ; above all, it would have done 
much to lessen the ignorance of Irish affairs and ideas, 
which has always been the reproach of British statesmen. 
The Queen, it is well known^, has often expressed a wish 
to visit her Irish dominions again, but has been unhappily 
deterred by advisers of little wisdom. 

A new agitation had sprung up in Ireland ere long, which 
gave promise, for a time, of important results. The Report 
of the Devon Commission had alarmed Ulster : two Bills 
for compensation for improvements made by Irish tenants, 
had, like the Bill of Stanley, been dropped ; the Famine and 
the Encumbered Estates Act had wrought havoc in the 
Irish land system. In numberless instances the pressure 
of distress had destroyed the peculium of the farmer of the 
North, for his Tenant Right had been eaten away by arrears 
of rent ; eviction and the new Poor Law had " cleared " 
estates, and driven their occupants from their homes in 
thousands ; the new purchasers in the Court set up in 
Dublin were already beginning to evict, and to impose 
rack-rents. From 1850 to 1852 a movement was set on foot 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 175 

for a reform of the land system, in many parts of Ireland ; 
it drew into it the Presbyterian and the Catholic peasant ; 
it gradually acquired great apparent strength. Its leaders 
were numerous and largely composed of priests ; but its 
chief directors were Duffy, of " Young Ireland " renown, 
and Frederick Lucas, an English Catholic, a man of high 
character, and of no ordinary powers. A Tenant League 1 
was formed of vast proportions ; it was sustained by sub- 
ordinate Leagues all over the country ; the demands of 
their spokesmen are still of interest, for they corresponded, 
in many respects, with the landed reforms of a later era. 
These demands were expressed in a formula, known as 
the Three F's — fair rent, fixity of tenure, and free sale, a 
mode of tenure analogous to that under the Ulster custom, 
and, to a certain extent, approved by O'Connell ; that is, 
rent was to be adjusted, not by contract, but by what the 
State or arbitration should decide to be just; the tenant was 
to remain secure in his farm as long as the " fair " rent was 
paid ; and he was to have the right to sell his farm, under 
certain conditions, and to put the purchase money into his 
pocket. Provision, too, was to be made for the discharge, 
in part, of arrears, which had accumulated enormously since 
the Famine ; the tenant was to be relieved by a just com- 
position from a burden intolerable in many cases. The 
movement gained much additional force at the General 
Election of 11852, for by this time the Irish Electorate had 
been enlarged to a considerable extent, by a measure passed 
a few months before ; the Tenant League, in fact, carried 
nearly all before it. Some fifty representatives were sent- 
from Ireland to support the claims of the League in the 
House of Commons ; they had been subjected, too, to a 
stringent test, which throws a significant light on the Irish 
politics of the day. They were pledged to stand aloof from 
all parties in the State, to assume an attitude of strict in- 
dependence, and above all to accept no Government places, 
a tolerably clear proof of the opinion entertained at the time 

1 The name "League" was preferred to the "Associations" of 
O'Connell, owing to the triumph of the Anti-Corn -Law League. 

176 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

of the integrity of the great body of the Irish members, and 
of the corrupting influences that prevailed around them. 

At this juncture the feeble Government of the late Lord 
Derby were clinging to office ; but the opposition was 
divided by the angry jealousies of the followers of Lord 
John Russell, of Palmerston, and of Peel, who had suddenly 
passed away two years before. Had the representatives 
of the Tenant League in Ireland been, therefore, a really 
united body, an independent party could have accom- 
plished much ; it could have held the balance between the 
great parties in the State; it possibly might have attained, 
in part, its objects. But the discords, so often fatal to 
Irish movements, lurked in this instance under a show 
of concord ; the Parliamentary members of the League 
had not a common purpose ; notwithstanding the pledges 
imposed on them, they were separated into two distinct 
parties which distrusted and disliked each other at heart. 
The first party was that led by Duffy and Lucas ; it formed 
a majority of the representatives of the League ; it was 
earnest, sincere, and of one mind ; its sole aim was to win 
a measure of Tenant Right, and to effect a thorough reform 
in the Irish land system. The second party was consider- 
ably less in number ; it was composed partly of survivors of 
O'Connell's " Tail " and partly of new adventurers in the 
field of politics ; and though it had accepted the kind of 
self-denying ordinance to which we have already referred, 
it was willing to sacrifice the cause of the Irish farmer for 
selfish and purely personal objects. The chiefs of this 
faction were John Sadleir, an Irish banker and a dabbler in 
finance, utterly without scruple but daring and able, and 
William Keogh, a young lawyer of great parts, but, at this 
time, of desperate fortunes ; and like their adherents these 
two men were ready to throw Tenant Right to the winds, if 
it stood in the way of their ambitious hopes. Sadleir and 
Keogh had been in the House of Commons before ; they 
had fiercely opposed the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill of 185 1, 
Keogh especially making very able speeches ; and in this 
way they had become allies of the small but distinguished 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 177 

Peelite party which, as is well known, had denounced that 
measure. In Ireland, too, they had found a powerful sup- 
porter in Cullen, then the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, 
a prelate of great authority and strength of character, who, 
of course, sympathised with assailants of the Bill of 1851 ; 
and many of the Irish Catholic bishops concurred. The 
party, therefore, of Sadleir and Keogh was sustained by 
a force of immense weight in Ireland ; and while it made 
loud professions regarding Tenant Right, it was still more 
vehement in its exhibition of zeal for the Church, in both 
instances masking its real purposes. 

The Tenant Right League, however, presented a bold and 
combined front in the short winter Session of 1852. A Bill 
embodying the Three F's was brought in by an able Catholic 
lawyer ; the prospect for it seemed for a time not hopeless. 
Lord Derby's Government had, meanwhile, proposed a 
measure for the compensation of Irish tenants ; and as 
this included improvements made in the past, as well as 
improvements made in the future, it would have vindicated, 
to a considerable extent, the joint ownership existing in 
many instances, and would have gone a long way to settle 
the question. The League members promised to support 
the Government, at this moment in a critical state, if their 
Bill and that of the Ministry were referred together to a 
Select Committee. Disraeli was willing to accept the offer. 
But the Irish followers of Lord Derby would not hear of 
this. Lord Derby and most of his colleagues agreed with 
them ; the result was that, when the Government staked 
their existence on Disraeli's Budget, the League members 
voted to a man against them, and, in fact, were the force 
that turned them out of office. 1 The Aberdeen Coalition 
succeeded to power, another striking instance of the great 
part Ireland has played in controlling Imperial affairs ; and 
had the League members continued, as a body, to be faith- 
ful to their trust, they might have compelled the incoming 
Government to support a substantial Tenant Right measure. 

1 For an account of these intrigues see Greville's " Memoirs," vol. vii., 
P. 33- 


178 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

But the Whig aristocracy were powerful in the Aberdeen 
Ministry ; they had, many of them, large estates in Ireland ; 
they thought the Three F's a project of rapine ; and, probably 
through the Peelites, they had recourse to the negotiations 
which, even in O'Connell's time, had detached from him 
some of his best followers. Sadleir, Keogh, and others of 
their party received places ; the divisions in the League 
broke suddenly out ; and the Confederacy, which was to 
win for the Irish farmer his rights, became a dissolving rope 
of sand. Duffy, Lucas, and their followers, justly indignant 
at the cynical violation of a solemn pledge, opposed the 
successful placemen when they sought re-election ; but 
Cullen, remembering what Young Ireland had been, and 
without sympathy with any popular movement, some of the 
Catholic bishops and many priests supported Sadleir and 
Keogh at the polls, and this finally broke the Tenant League 
up. The tenants of Ireland abandoned their cause in des- 
pair ; they made no effort to advance it for years ; and the 
reform of the Irish land system, as had been the case with 
Catholic Emancipation and other Irish reforms, was most 
unfortunately postponed for a long space of time, and, when 
the occasion came, was taken in hand under inauspicious 
conditions, and, above all, very late. It only remains to add 
that Lucas died, after having made a fruitless appeal to 
Rome. Duffy, despairing of his country, went to Australia, 
where he had an honourable and distinguished career. The 
fate of Sadleir is still remembered ; he killed himself after 
committing atrocious frauds. Keogh largely redeemed the 
errors of his youth after he had become a very able Irish 

Cullen and his brethren had played a remarkable part in 
this important episode in Irish affairs ; they had already 
become conspicuous in another sphere of conduct. The 
National system of education — we described it before — had 
been in existence for many years. Though much opposition 
had been made to it, it had, on the whole, made decided 
progress. In 1852 the Primary schools had not less than 
half a million of pupils, and this after the events of the 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 179 

Famine. The system, however, had been very generally 
condemned by the clergy of the Established Church and by 
a large part of the Protestant gentry. These objections were 
due in many instances to the spirit of the old Ascendency 
that could not endure equality, but they rested also on a 
distinct and a solid principle. Education, they insisted, 
ought not to be cut in two ; secular instruction ought not 
to be divorced from religious ; a system, established on this 
basis, postpones what is divine to what is human, and 
almost sets spiritual things at nought. A few of the Irish 
Catholic bishops took this view also, and set themselves 
against the National system ; but a large majority, and 
probably five-sixths of the priests, availed themselves of the 
National schools, even if they did not like them at heart. 
This attitude was approved for a time at Rome ; and, as we 
have said, the National system had had a considerable 
measure of success. By degrees, however, it became an 
object of the suspicion of the heads of Catholic Ireland ; it 
must be acknowledged not without sufficient reason. The 
Catholic Commissioners on the Board which directed the 
system were only two ; the Protestant and Presbyterian 
were no less than five. This disproportion was evidently 
unjust, especially if we bear in mind that three-fourths at 
least of the children in the Primary schools were Catholics. 
Other and weightier objections besides remained ; the 
" secular " instruction, which was to be " united/' became 
by degrees not purely secular ; extracts from the Bible and 
from religious works of a Protestant complexion were let 
into the schools ; a change was thus effected in the main 
principle on which the system was established from the 
first. Space was thus afforded for proselytising of an 
insidious kind, the evil most dreaded by the Catholic 
priesthood, and from which they had been promised pro- 
tection. Nor was this apprehension without solid grounds 
if it was probably exaggerated to a great extent. 1 In addi- 

1 See, however, a letter of Archbishop Whateley, the leading man on 
the Board, in which he avows proselytising objects. Education Depart- 
ment Report, 1896-7, p. 226. 

180 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

tion to this, the Irish Presbyterians had objected to a day 
being set apart for the " separate religious " instruction, 
which had been the rule ; the Board had injudiciously 
consented to this, and the Catholic bishops had made 
a protest. 

It was at this juncture that Cullen was made the virtual 
head of the Irish Catholic Prelates. He had been brought 
up in the traditions of Rome ; he was an extreme ultramon- 
tane in faith ; he was a type of the Catholic reaction of 
1849-50 ; he disliked the moderation and spirit of com- 
promise which had distinguished some of his episcopal 
brethren. The system of National education was, of course, 
opposed to his religious views ; and it is only fair to remark 
that at this time a proselytising movement had begun in 
Ireland, directed chiefly by Protestant English zealots, who 
endeavoured, by very improper means, to win Irish Catholics 
from allegiance to their Church. At a Synod assembled at 
Thurles in 1850, the National system was, with other things, 
condemned by the Irish Catholic bishops ; and a demand, 
which, however, was not complied with, was made for a 
separate religious system to be extended to the children of 
every creed in Ireland. In spite, however, of this ecclesias- 
tical ban, the National system has continued to make pro- 
gress ; the population of Ireland has largely decreased ; and 
yet a million of pupils are on the rolls of the schools at a 
charge to the State of not far from a million and a half 
sterling. It should be observed, however, that efforts have 
been made to remove the Catholic objections noticed 
before ; the Catholic Commissioners on the Board have 
long been equal in number to the Protestant and the 
Presbyterian ; secular instruction is in a real sense secular, 
for books of a sectarian tendency cannot be read in the 
schools when united education is going on ; and attempts 
at proselytising have been made impossible. This system 
has provided for many years a tolerably fair supply of 
secular knowledge to the children of the humble classes of 
Ireland ; its success, in this respect, if not brilliant, has, 
perhaps, been sufficient. But the system has failed as 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 181 

regards one of its main objects ; separate religious instruc- 
tion does not flourish in the schools ; and the schools have 
not reconciled in the slightest degree the young of the 
still divided faiths of Ireland. The system, too, has become, 
in the main, sectarian ; the schools are comparatively few in 
which Catholics and Protestants are found to meet together, 
even for secular instruction of the strictest kind ; the schools, 
in fact, are for the most part sectarian, that is, composed 
wholly of Catholic or Protestant children. A part, how- 
ever, of the original principle remains ; the schools are 
sectarian, but with a conscience clause ; the Bible cannot 
be read in a purely Protestant school ; there can be no 
emblem in a purely Catholic school while secular instruc- 
tion is being given. This system, if accepted, is not liked 
in Ireland ; it is not in harmony with the sentiments of a 
truly religious people ; and but for the immense subventions 
of the State, it would not have had even qualified success. 
The chief proof of this is that sectarian schools, in which 
religion forms a large part of the teaching, though upheld by 
voluntary effort, abound in Ireland, and an Education Rate 
in support of the National schools would, beyond question, 
be bitterly opposed. 

The Queen's Colleges had been established by 1849, anc ^ 
the Queen's University a few months afterwards. If the 
system of National Education was denounced by the Synod 
of Thurles, these institutions were naturally denounced also, 
and that, too, for a more apparent reason. The system 
applied to the National schools could not, in fact, as we 
have remarked, be legitimately applied to a University 
system. As to this, secular instruction could not be fairly 
united, for secular instruction of the higher kind necessarily 
involves religious questions and disputes, and we have 
already noticed other objections. The Queen's Colleges 
and University, we have said, have had some success in 
Presbyterian Ireland ; but in Catholic Ireland they have 
been almost fruitless, especially since the Catholic bishops 
pronounced them to be " godless," echoing the language 
of High Churchmen in the House of Commons. The 

1 82 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

bishops proved that their anathema was sincere ; they 
founded a Catholic University in 1854 ; its first head was 
the illustrious Newman ; and this institution, as regards the 
Irish Catholics, has completely superseded the Queen's Col- 
leges and University, though for many years it could not 
even lead to a degree, and though it did not receive a 
shilling from the State, and was kept up by voluntary 
subscriptions alone, the noble contributions of a very 
poor people. Meanwhile Trinity College, amply endowed, 
remained a Protestant institution in the true meaning of the 
word, as it is essentially Protestant to this day. Years, 
indeed, were to pass before it made its honours and privi- 
leges free to the Irish Catholic or admitted him to its 
governing body. We shall consider the subject again 
when an attempt was made to deal generally with Irish 
University education, as a whole, and when a slight con- 
cession was made to the Catholic University at a later date. 
Enough here to say that Catholic Ireland has, in this matter, 
substantial grounds for complaint. 

The census of 1851 showed that the population of Ireland 
had decreased by nearly two millions of souls from the 
highest point it had reached before the Famine. This 
decline has continued down to the present time ; the 
population is now about the same as it was in 1800-5. 
The future alone can determine whether this portentous 
change, which has reduced the number of human beings 
on the Irish soil from eight millions and a half to four and 
a half millions, and has scattered the Irish race over many 
parts of the earth, concentrating it chiefly in the United 
States, will be to the advantage of the estate of man or in 
the ultimate interests of the British Empire. Unquestion- 
ably, however, and for many years, it conduced to the 
material welfare of Ireland, and was a condition, in fact, 
of its social progress. The removal from the land of the 
wretched multitudes, which preyed on it as a devouring 
incubus, and disorganised the community almost from top 
to bottom, not only greatly lessened grave and general 
dangers, but placed the whole order of things in Ireland 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 183 

on a more secure and an improved basis. Millions of acres 
were thrown open to real and fruitful husbandry. Whole 
districts, engrossed by swarms of poverty, were made avail- 
able for cultivators worthy of the name. Nor was this 
process harsh after the first few years had passed ; a con- 
siderable number of English and Scotch immigrants took 
possession of tracts of land in a few counties ; but the 
change was usually effected by the consolidation of farms, 
petty holdings being absorbed into large holdings, and these 
were usually possessed by the native peasantry. And while 
the foundations of the land system were thus strengthened, 
a series of causes concurred to develop the resources and 
the general wealth of the country. The railway system, 
gradually spreading over Ireland, brought her products 
quickly and cheaply to British markets. This was in itself 
an important gain. Free trade, not yet ruinous to the large 
Irish farmer, increased Irish manufactures and Irish com- 
merce. A remarkable impulse, too, was given to agriculture 
in a variety of ways ; the State, under the Acts lately 
passed for the purpose, made immense advances to the 
landed gentry, which were applied to works of enclosure 
and drainage ; the turnip generally replaced the potato in 
the case of farms of considerable size ; farming machinery, 
previously very bad, of the best kind was widely intro- 
duced ; the breeds of cattle, horses, and sheep were 
markedly improved. Ireland, in a word, appeared, in the 
period, which may be said to have begun about 1854, to 
make a spring forward in the path of progress. 

This increasing prosperity showed itself in many visible 
signs. The Famine and the Exodus, indeed, left their 
marks of ruin ; some villages were almost blotted out ; few 
of the small inland towns made a real advance. But the 
growing wealth of Dublin created noble suburbs ; the streets, 
the shops, the dwellings, greatly improved ; Belfast, not 
only doubled in extent, but expanded into a flourishing 
town, a small Liverpool and Manchester within a single 
area. One of the most notable evidences of this progress 
was a grand development of Catholic places of worship ; 

184 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

the miserable chapels of the days of the Penal Code dis- 
appeared ; most parishes possessed a suitable church ; 
stately cathedrals, supreme over the adjoining landscape, 
rose often on the sites of the fallen shrines of the past. 
The mud hovel, also, throughout whole districts gave way to 
habitations of a very different kind ; the increase, indeed, of 
houses fit for farmers of substance, and of the lower middle 
class in the towns, was a distinctive feature of this period. 
The structure of society, too, became sounder and more 
stable in some respects ; and its relations were better- 
ordered. The intense competition for land diminished 
for a time ; rent, which had been raised to an abnormal 
level, was kept down at a more natural rate, especially where 
the large farm system prevailed. Wages, which had sunk to 
the lowest point compatible with eking out bare life, were 
greatly augmented throughout the country ; they rose from 
about six or eight shillings a week, to nine, ten, twelve, and 
even more ; this increase fortunately has been at least main- 
tained. Nothing, too, was more remarkable than the auspi- 
cious change for the better seen in the mass of the peasantry. 
The half-starved cottar was a comparatively rare sight ; the 
conveniences, nay, some of the luxuries, of life were brought 
to the homes of thousands who had not known them before ; 
the dirt and rags of the past were not common ; the Poor 
Law, operating properly at last, compelled Property to look 
after Poverty, and kept crowds of beggary out of view. 
Cheap prices and Free Trade had, of course, their part in 
producing a transformation rich with hope for the future. 

Comparative tranquillity and order followed in the train 
of this material progress. There were instances, indeed, of 
agrarian crime occasionally of a very bad type, largely 
to be ascribed to the harsh conduct of purchasers from the 
Encumbered Estates Court ; the profound Irish divisions of 
race and faith appeared now and then in Orange and kin- 
dred riots. But the surface, at least, of things was not 
disturbed ; the community was, as a whole, at peace. The 
agitation and troubles of late years seemed things of the 
past ; not a whisper against the Union was heard ; the 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 185 

atrocious agrarian outbreaks, which had convulsed whole 
districts, had ceased to shake the frame of society ; White- 
boyism and Ribbonism scarcely made a sign. The unques- 
tionable improvement of the land system produced an 
apparently great improvement in the relations between 
the owners and the occupiers of the soil, except in the case 
of the new landlords. Absentee estates, as a rule, were well 
managed ; scarcely a middleman was to be found save in a 
few backward counties ; rents were paid with a punctuality 
before unknown ; the peasantry were not only submissive, 
but seemed contented. There was no symptom of a Tenant 
Right movement ; the enactment of laws which, on the 
whole, considerably increased the powers of the landlords, 
and modified Irish tenures on the English system, ignoring 
the concurrent rights of the tenant in the land, were obeyed 
without a breath of general complaint. Political agitation 
seemed literally dead ; a feeble attack on the Established 
Church of Ireland, greatly strengthened by the commutation 
of the tithe, was repeatedly treated with contempt in 
Parliament ; Liberal Ministers, once allies of O'Connell, 
disregarded the demands of Irish popular members ; the 
aversion which England had felt to Ireland, became, what 
was far worse, indifference. The representation of Ireland 
was at its very lowest ebb ; it had but few men of parts in its 
ranks ; it was largely composed of seekers for office and 
ambitious lawyers ; the Catholic majority of the members 
was reduced to impotence, for some continued to hang on 
to the Whigs, while others, after the events of 1859-60, 
threw in their lot with the Conservative party, supposed 
to have Austrian and even Papal sympathies. The at- 
titude of the Irish Catholic priesthood, in these years, was 
not less significant. Cullen had received a Cardinal's hat 
from Rome ; he was made all but the absolute ruler of his 
Church in Ireland ; and fortified in his natural instincts by 
what was going on in Europe, he sternly forbade the 
Catholic Irish clergy to take part in popular movements 
of any kind, and restricted them to their sacerdotal duties. 
Veterans of the Catholic League of O'Connell, and of the 

1 86 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

Repeal movement of 1843-4 were prohibited from whisper- 
ing a word about agrarian reform, or even from condemning 
the harshest acts of landlords. Cardinal Cullen identified all 
these things, in his mind, with what was being done by 
Mazzini, Garibaldi, and other enemies of the Church. 

The Irish, like all Celts, and especially the French, have 
had, in their history, seasons of repose, in which angry 
passions smouldered beneath the surface of things, to break 
ultimately out in wild disorders. Such was the period after 
the Plantation of Ulster, followed by the rising of 1641, and 
the period of the reign of Charles II. ending in the civil war 
of 1689-91 ; the period we are surveying was to be of this 
character. The tranquillity of Ireland from 1854 to about 
1865 was in many important respects deceptive ; it was but 
the u torrent's smoothness before it dashes below." Ireland 
still remained a comparatively poor country, indisputable as 
had been its material progress ; it was, relatively to England, 
now advancing by leaps and bounds under the influence of 
Free Trade, poorer than it had been thirty years before. 
Great, too, as the development of its agriculture had been, 
and notwithstanding the wide consolidation of farms, it was 
still, in the main, a land of small holdings, with all the 
consequences that this implies ; the mass of the community 
was a mere peasantry, not unmindful of the traditions of the 
past. The wealth of the country had largely increased; 
but it was dependent, in the main, on two accidents, seasons 
of good harvests and the high prices of the produce of the 
soil ; it deserves notice that cries of distress were loudly 
heard after one or two bad years ; and few of the English 
and Scotch farmers, who had settled on the land, were, 
in the long run, prosperous. Elements of social danger, if 
concealed, were thus not wanting ; meanwhile, in the rela- 
tions springing from the land, by many degrees the most 
important, changes were at work ominous of ills in the 
future. The new landlords, we have said, were, as a 
rule, exacting, creatures of a confiscation of the most ruthless 
kind ; they resembled the u planters " of James I. and Crom- 
well ; the old landlords, if not, as a class, oppressive, had 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 187 

become more commercial in their dealings, and less kindly 
to their dependents than even their fathers had been before 
the Famine. By this time they had been very nearly de- 
prived of the last remnants of political power ; they had 
never recovered from the effects of the Encumbered Estates 
Acts, and under the still growing bureaucratic rule of the 
Castle, they had become a mere caste, isolated among the 
surrounding people, with the privileges of property but 
without its influence, more and more like the old noblesse 
of France, to whom we have before compared them. This 
state of things was not without advantages of its own ; 
it contributed to the supremacy of equal law ; it kept down 
the Ascendency of bygone times ; but it was not an 
auspicious day for Ireland when it was said that she was 
ruled from the Castle by police. 

Turning from the owners to the occupiers of the soil the 
position of affairs was not without signs of evil. Further 
facilities for eviction had been given by law ; the insecurity 
of the peasants' tenure, increasing since the extinction of the 
forty-shilling freeholds, had year after year become more 
apparent. Leasehold interests had very largely diminished ; 
the land was being more and more held on tenancies-at- 
will ; less protection existed than before 1829-40 against 
rack-renting and oppressive eviction. And, at the same time, 
as the country grew in wealth, the tenant farmers had added 
more and more to the land, and had paid larger and larger 
sums on its transfer ; yet as before this joint-ownership was 
not supported by law ; and the conflict between Fact and 
Law referred to before became more evident if not a source 
of much actual trouble. Nor can it be forgotten that Lord 
Palmerston, at this period the real head of the State, had 
described " Irish Tenant Right, as Irish Landlord Wrong," a 
mischievous and utterly false saying ; Lord Clarendon and 
one of his successors, Lord Carlisle — the Lord Morpeth of 
O'Connell's day — had almost avowed that Ireland could 
never prosper until the small occupiers of the soil had been 
removed from it. The peasantry did not forget all this, and 
understood how unsafe their position was ; we must bear 

1 88 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

in mind they had now acquired something like knowledge 
in the National schools, and though not much positive 
wrong was done, and things went on well in a prosperous 
time, they were discontented at heart with their lot, and 
elements of disaffection and of ill-will abounded, though 
very seldom disclosed. The complete absence of agitation 
and the calm that prevailed through the community, was 
not without real mischief. The priesthood, reduced to 
silence by Cardinal Cullen, had ceased to be the protectors 
of their flocks, or even to urge the just claims of the peasant ; 
the Irish representation divided, degraded, feeble, was unable 
to assert or to vindicate Irish interests, and left them 
unguarded from attack or unfair dealing, and from what 
was more dangerous the errors of British statesmen. And 
the fruits of this torpor and stagnation were necessarily 
selfishness and baseness in political life, and an absolute 
collapse of sound and healthy opinion ; at no time was the 
remark of Grattan more true, that Ireland required, above 
all things, something like a national organ to express the 
will of the people. 

These elements of evil, however, would hardly have 
acquired strength, and a better order of things might have 
been evolved had not pernicious influences come from 
abroad into Ireland. The multitudes of the Exodus, we 
have seen, had been scattered over many lands, and a new 
Ireland had sprung up across the Atlantic ; the exiles were 
animated by a common feeling, hatred of British rule and 
of Irish landlords, charged by them with the results of the 
Famine. The emigrants naturally found leaders ; these men 
endeavoured to combine a movement, especially in the 
large American towns, in order to further their avowed 
objects ; their emissaries were occasionally despatched to 
Ireland ; and as the intercourse between the Irish at home 
and the Irish abroad became frequent, rebellious and 
socialistic ideas, notably with regard to landed relations, 
gradually made their way among the Irish peasantry. The 
first symptom of the new movement appeared as early as 
1858 in parts of Munster which the Famine had ravaged ; 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 189 

James Stephens, one of the rebels of 1848, who, with other 
associates, had found a home in Paris, and had received a 
Jacobin welcome, had landed in Ireland and set a secret 
society on foot ; a few hundred men were enrolled in its 
ranks ; and the Phcenix conspiracy, as it was called, made 
a feeble stir for a time. The local leaders, however, fell into 
the hands of the Government ; their puny efforts seemed 
of such slight importance that their offences were all but 
overlooked. Stephens and other kindred spirits fled to the 
Umte_d_States ; they made efforts to combine their country- 
men into confederacies which, when an occasion offered, 
should be able to strike a blow at England, in Canada or 
at home. Their labours, however, were long fruitless ; the 
Phcenix conspiracy had fallen under the ban of the Catholic 
Church in Ireland ; the peasantry, as in 1848, stood aloof ; 
even the Irish in America seemed not enthusiastic in the 
cause. The movement, in fact, showed no signs of life in 
Ireland ; and it was crossed and baffled by other move- 
ments essentially of a different kind. A small remnant of 
the Young Ireland party now advocated constitutional 
reforms ; Stephens and his followers were fiercely hostile 
to them ; and bold Irish spirits had formed a Papal Legion 
which fought honourably under Lamoriciere, and had no 
sympathy with anarchic and revolutionary views. Tran- 
quillity still prevailed in Ireland ; no wonder that British 
statesmen, at all times superficially acquainted with Irish 
affairs, believed the " Irish difficulty " to be a phantom of 
the past ; their attention, indeed, during this period, was 
chiefly directed to foreign politics. 

The fiscal system of Ireland underwent a memorable 
change from 1853 to i860. The House of Commons, we 
have seen, had passed Resolutions in 1816-17, declaring that, 
having regard to recent events — to these we have referred 
before — Ireland might be " assimilated in finance to Great 
Britain," and that she might be taxed as England and Scot- 
land were, but subject to the " exemptions and abatements," 
to which she was entitled under the Treaty of Union, the 
meaning of these terms, when explained, being that she was 

190 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

not to be burdened unduly beyond her means. An Act, we 
have also seen, was accordingly passed, abolishing the 
separate Irish Exchequer and the separate Debts of Great 
Britain and Ireland, and fusing them into one National 
Debt ; the ground, therefore, had, so to speak, been cleared 
for realising the ideal of Pitt, but subject always to the 
above provision for making British and Irish taxation 
uniform. This legislation, however, rather aimed at 
relieving Ireland from an iniquitous charge of debt, and 
from equally unjust taxation, than at identifying her fiscal 
system with that of England and Scotland, and, as a matter 
of fact, no attempt was made for years to make British and 
Irish taxation the same. The two fiscal systems continued 
to be completely different ; the duties, indeed, on tea and 
tobacco were made equal in the Three Kingdoms, 1 and, in 
1842, the duty on stamps ; but Ireland long remained free 
from a number of taxes to which England and Scotland 
had been subject for years. Nor is the reason difficult to 
seek : the statesmen of the day of the Union had not all 
passed away, they remembered the wrong done to Ireland 
from 1800 to 1817 ; the Irish representation still con- 
tained able men, survivors of the great school of Grattan, 
and O'Connell at a somewhat later period ; these men would 
not have brooked injustice done to their country without at 
least an indignant protest, to which they would have con- 
trived to give effect. The most remarkable instance of this 
fiscal distinction was seen in the Liberal measures of Peel, 
the only one great financier of this century who had any 
real knowledge of Irish affairs. Peel inaugurated the policy 
of Free Trade ; this required the imposition of direct taxes 
in order to get rid of indirect ; and he imposed the income 
tax on England and Scotland. But he pointedly exempted 
Ireland from the charge, and though he slightly raised the 
Irish spirit duties for a time, he soon took this additional 
duty off. 

From the Union until after the first half of the century, 

1 It deserves notice that eminent Irishmen objected to this attempt 
at assimilation, notably Sir John Newport. 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 191 

the fiscal position of Ireland was not doubtful. She had 
been treated as a distinct country from the nature of the 
case, as long as she was liable to the contribution fixed by 
Pitt ; after the abolition of her Exchequer, and the amalga- 
mation of her Debt, Parliament had declared that her 
taxation must be made identical with that of England and 
Scotland, subject to her fiscal immunities under the 
Union. But this uniformity had not taken place, if a few 
attempts had been made in that direction, as the conduct of 
Peel had very strikingly shown ; she was still fiscally a 
completely distinct country, as she was in government, 
administration and other respects. Her fiscal system was 
to be soon transformed, under conditions that must be 
described as iniquitous ; though far from wholly, she was 
to be brought nearly under the fiscal system of England and 
Scotland, as had been the hope of Pitt half a century 
before. The statesmen who had witnessed the Union and 
knew its traditions had by this time been removed from the 
scene ; the representation of Ireland w r as pitiably bad and 
numbered very few able men ; England regarded Ireland 
with the carelessness of contempt ; Ireland was in a state of 
political apathy. Simultaneously Free Trade was adding 
enormously to the wealth of Great Britain ; the develop- 
ment of this policy was deemed the perfection of wisdom ; 
and one of the first requirements for this, as in the days of 
Peel, was to supersede indirect taxation by direct. The 
National finances were under the control of the Minister, 
who has played so remarkable a part in making or in 
proposing immense changes in Ireland, in after years, but 
who, at this time, certainly set her financial interests at 
nought. Mr. Gladstone, disregarding the wise example of 
Peel, made Ireland liable to the Income Tax in 1853 ; and 
between that year and i860, had, with his successors, more 
than trebled her spirit duties. The results may be expressed 
in one or two figures ; the taxation of Ireland, still a very 
poor country, was increased by a sum of nearly three 
millions and, compared to that of Great Britain, was largely 
raised ; and her " finances," in the words of Pitt, were " as- 

192 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

similated " to those of the much more wealthy country, if 
not altogether, to a very considerable extent. 

A grievous wrong was done to Ireland at this time ; it has 
been exposed, from that day to this, by well-informed Irish- 
men. Any opposition made in Parliament was, neverthe- 
less, feeble ; many Irish members, indeed, protested ; but 
their arguments had little influence or weight ; and some 
were dragged in the wake of a Ministry of which they were 
the obsequious satellites. The Question was investigated 
a few years afterwards, by a Committee selected from 
the House of Commons ; but the representatives from 
Ireland were overborne by specious, but utterly false 
sophistry; they did not thoroughly comprehend the subject; 
and Treasury officials succeeded in mystifying the facts. 
We shall comment afterwards on this policy, when its 
iniquity was dragged fully into the light by the Report of a 
Commission, which has received no answer, though it does 
not ^enter into the whole field of inquiry. Two observa- 
tions, however, may be made here : though Mr. Gladstone 
made Irish taxation identical with that of Great Britain in 
most respects, he did not venture to assert that Ireland was 
not a distinct country, entitled financially to her special 
rights through the Treaty of Union. On the contrary, 
when he imposed the Income Tax on Ireland, he main- 
tained that he gave her an equivalent ; and idle as the 
pretence was — he released a questionable debt of -£4,000,000 
and put on a charge which has amounted to ^23,000,000 
— still this arrangement kept the principle in view. 
Ireland, in fact, even at the present hour, is not fiscally 
one with Great Britain ; she preserves some immunities 
under the Union ; and the tendencies of statesmen during 
the last twenty years has been to acknowledge more and 
more her separate financial rights. The second observation 
to be made is this : in 1853-60 the prosperity of England and 
Scotland was immense ; Ireland was progressing, no doubt, 
but had only emerged from the havoc wrought by the 
Famine as it were yesterday ; and Free Trade could not be 
as advantageous to an agricultural country, even while 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 193 

agricultural prices were high, as it was to a country of 
manufactures and trade. The increase of Irish taxation 
at this juncture was therefore an act of peculiar harshness ; 
no wonder one of Mr. Gladstone's best colleagues has 
said, in simple but significant words: — "If the House of 
Commons, in the period 1853 to i860, when the great 
enhancement of taxation took place, had fully considered 
the circumstances of Ireland, they would not have felt 
themselves justified in increasing the taxation of that 
country by means of the Income Tax and the equalisation 
of the spirit duties." x 

The Irish movement in America and elsewhere swelled 
gradually into more ample proportions, especially as the 
Irish increased in numbers in the Great Republic. Stephens 
usually had his headquarters in France ; O'Mahony, another 
of the "men of 1848," conducted the agitation in the United 
States, and Mitchell, who had escaped from confinement, 
co-operated, if apparently to little purpose. The great Civil 
War between the North and the South retarded the move- 
ment for some time ; Irishmen were drawn into the conflict 
on both sides ; as their fathers had crossed bayonets in the 
Peninsular War, as Celts were in the armies of Hannibal 
and Rome. Meagher, indeed, became a distinguished sol- 
dier ; it is unnecessary to refer to other brilliant Irishmen 
who made themselves conspicuous in a fratricidal strife, the 
most terrible, perhaps, which History has known. But as 
the conflict was drawing to a close, the movement was 
extended and became much stronger; it acquired consis- 
tency and an organisation in many lands. The object of 
the leaders, as it had been from the first, was to form a 
great league of Irishmen, wherever they could be found, 
against British rule, and, as a part of it, against Irish land- 
lords ; no means were to be omitted, however base or 
atrocious. A gigantic conspiracy thus came into being ; 
it had its centres in America, in Great Britain, in Ireland, 
attracting to itself congenial Irish elements, formidable in 
numbers and appearance at least ; it had much in common 
1 Report of the Childers Commission, p. 158. 

194 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

with the conspiracy of the United Irishmen, when these 
had resolved to take up arms ; and it presented a strange 
combination of French Jacobinism, of American skill 
in uniting bodies of men, on a regular system, for a 
common object, and of Whiteboyism and Ribbonism, 
with their sinister methods. Its most destructive feature, 
however, was this : its main operations were conducted in 
the dark by irresponsible and concealed leaders ; it was, in 
fact, a secret society of vast dimensions, making itself felt 
from the Shannon to the Ohio, and working through the 
secret societies, depending on it and formed everywhere to 
carry out its mandates. For England and Ireland, not 
distant from France, where Stephens was the supreme 
leader, it had its " Committee of Public Safety " and its 
minor committees, on the model of the great club of Paris ; 
it called itself the " Brotherhood of the Irish Republic " ; 
in the United States, where O'Mahony ruled, it was known 
as the " Fenian Association," an old Gaelic name, with its 
" Fenian " ramifications extending into almost every State. 

The leaders of the organisation formed in this way went 
energetically on with their work. The secret societies 
enrolled thousands of Irishmen into their ranks in many 
parts of the world ; the " Fenians," as they were generally 
called, were to be found wherever the Irish name was 
known ; they abounded in the American cities, from the 
Mississippi to the St. Lawrence ; they were numerous in 
lands under the Southern Cross ; they swarmed in London, 
Glasgow, and other centres of British wealth and commerce. 
These levies of revolution were bound together, as their 
fathers had been in 1797-8, by passwords, oaths, and 
mysterious signs ; and numbers were swept into an 
anarchic movement without knowing what were its ends 
and its character. At the same time efforts were made in 
many places to manufacture or to procure fire-arms — the 
rude pike could not cope with the rifle and bayonet — and 
bodies of recruits were drilled and received a kind of discipline 
which gave them the semblance of military force. There 
were attempts, too, not wholly without success, to introduce 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 195 

Fenians into the British army and to leaven the Irish 
soldiery with disaffection ; and ingenious devices were 
employed to debauch regiments, to set the men against 
their officers, and to threaten mutiny. All this was carried 
on stealthily and in the dark ; but an incendiary Press, 
established in scores of towns, gave free vent to the passions 
and the ideas which contributed to the force of the move- 
ment. One of these prints was issued under the shadow of 
Dublin Castle ; the teaching of all was essentially the same. 
They described England as a cowardly and hypocritical 
Power, and her rulers as brutal and false tyrants ; scorn- 
fully contrasted British sympathy with the national cause of 
Italy and British contempt of the cause of Ireland ; and 
savagely broke out against the policy of constitutional 
reform for Ireland, the policy which had been that of 
O'Connell through life, and which, even in this season of 
frustrated hopes, had still no inconsiderable support in 
the country. But the most striking feature of these publica- 
tions was this : they proclaimed war to the knife with 
Irish landlords, breathed fierce detestation of this whole 
order of men, and declared that they were no better than 
inhuman pirates or vermin, to be swept from the face of the 
earth. The Jacobin Press of 1793-4, was not more vehe- 
ment against the French seigneurs and emigres ; in fact 
these writers felt that Irish landlords were loyal adherents of 
British rule in Ireland, the destruction of which was their 
first and main object. x 

Ireland was, of course, to be the Fenian battle-field ; her 
" liberation from the accursed Saxon yoke and from land- 
lordism," the prize of a Fenian triumph. Great efforts were 
made to promote the sacred cause in Ireland ; manufac- 
tories of arms were set up in Dublin; Fenian envoys 

1 Volumes could be filled with extracts from these wicked diatribes. 
They are not without interest, for they express the sentiments of a 
movement of a later day. I quote a few words taken at random : — 
M I recommend my countrymen to shoot the landlord-levellers as we 
shoot robbers and rats. ... I am free to admit that Thuggism has 
never produced the death by starvation of two millions of people, and 
is therefore, compared to Irish aristocracy, a harmless institution." 

196 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

crowded the chief Irish seaports ; a considerable number 
of recruits, nearly all composed of idlers in the towns and 
of desperate men, were added to what was called the " Irish 
Republican Army." Drilling by night, also, took place in 
some counties ; a force of imposing size was arrayed upon 
paper ; maps were made, as in 1798, of lands to be the spoils 
of confiscation, in the event of success ; the lands were to 
be allotted to the champions of the rights of Ireland. 
Secret appeals, too, were made to the peasantry ; but they 
turned, from the first, a deaf ear to them. The occupiers 
of the Irish soil had, no doubt, grievances ; they wer£ 
ready, as time was to show, urrder certain conditions^ to 
take part in a great agrarian movement ; but they had a 
keen eye to their own interests ; they saw a prospect of 
loss, nay of ruin, for themselves, in a revolutionary scheme 
of plunder ; they were still, as of old, a somewhat inert 
mass ; they were not suffering, as in 1798, from cruel 
wrongs which would arouse even the timid to fury ; above 
all, they lent a willing ear to their priests, who, by the express 
orders of Cardinal Cullen, denounced Fenianism as the 
worst kind of rebellious wickedness. With scarcely an 
exception, they repudiated Fenian teaching ; in fact, the 
Fenian leaders had misunderstood their position, their 
sentiments, and the only means through which their sympa- 
thies could be reached, and they could be led even to think 
of taking a side in the movement. The close of the Civil 
War in America, nevertheless, gave Fenianism a real 
impulse outside Ireland ; thousands of Irish soldiers were 
set free to bear arms in the cause, and hundreds of Irish- 
American officers ; as nearly always happens in similar 
cases, the reports of emissaries misrepresented the facts ; and 
a plan was certainly formed for an armed Irish rising, to be 
assisted by a Fenian contingent from the Far West, as the 
rebels of 1798 were assisted from France. The Irish Govern- 
ment, however, had, all through, as has commonly been 
the misfortune of Irish treason, been kept acquainted with 
what was going on by spies and informers in the pay of the 
Castle ; Lord Wodehouse, the successor of Lord Carlisle, 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 197 

struck the first blow by destroying the rebellious journal 
which had defied British rule, so to speak, in his presence, 
and by sending its chief conductors to prison. Stephens, 
who had landed in Ireland, was also arrested ; and though 
he contrived to effect his escape through the connivance of 
one of the prison officials, Fenianism had already received 
a weighty blow in Ireland. The conspiracy evidently was 
known to the men in power ; timid hearts quailed and 
abandoned the cause. The arrested journalists were tried 
and severely punished ; the movement seemed to have 
collapsed for a time. 

An immense conspiracy, however, sometimes dies hard ; 
imperfect as may be its essential strength, its secrecy must 
be more or less dangerous. The Fenian leaders did not yet 
cease to hope ; from the autumn of 1865 to the spring of 
1867 they redoubled the efforts and the devices they had 
resorted to to effect an Irish rising, to be accompanied, too, 
by diversions to be made in England. But the Government 
and Parliament had learned what they had to deal with ; 
the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended at once ; suspected 
persons were arrested by scores ; the importation, even the 
use of arms was prohibited, save under very strict pre- 
cautions. Ireland, in fact, was placed in a state of siege ; and 
the armed force in the towns was largely augmented. Re- 
bellion, therefore, and aid from abroad, on anything like a 
large scale, were made simply impossible ; the Irish levies, 
which had been nominally enrolled, were left without 
weapons completely helpless. Dissensions, too, the usual 
curse of Irish movements, had broken out among the Fenian' 
leaders ; Stephens thought discretion the better part of 
valour, and did not reappear on the scene ; O'Mahony was 
deposed by his colleagues ; the heads of the conspiracy 
became at feud with each other. Nevertheless, a petty out- 
break took place ; a few bodies of half-armed men rose in 
Kerry, in Limerick, and other counties, but were easily 
put down by the Constabulary on the spot, a small 
Fenian party, which marched out from Dublin, was 
cleverly caught and disarmed by a handful of troops ; 

198 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

some Irish-American officers, who had landed at Cork, 
and expected to find a military force to command, were 
quickly captured and sent to jail ; an Irish-American 
cruiser was compelled to leave the coast. The rising, in 
fact, was as complete a failure as that of 1848 ; and after 
the punishment of the chief ringleaders the " rebellion of 
1867 " was almost forgotten in Ireland. It was otherwise in 
England, where events happened which made a profound 
impression on the national mind. A Fenian raid upon the 
Castle of Chester was frustrated only by mere accident ; a 
Fenian rescue which took place near Manchester and led to 
the murder of a peace officer ; the trials and executions 
which followed ; the fierce execrations which broke out in 
Ireland as the victims of the law were sent to the scaffold ; 
the voice of Irish opinion, among the people, which mourned 
for these men as patriotic martyrs ; and finally the destruc- 
tion of a prison wall at Clerkenwell, an act of violence 
committed to effect the escape of a Fenian prisoner of some 
note : — all this, after a momentary ebullition of wrath, sank 
deep into the hearts of Englishmen, and especially told on 
the English Democracy, now beginning to be a great power 
in the State. These occurrences, with their ominous 
symptoms, happening after Ireland had been in repose for 
years, and after British statesmen had repeatedly declared 
that Irish troubles had for ever been set to rest, caused 
thousands to think that there still must be something rotten 
in the state of Irish affairs ; that Ireland must have real 
grievances and wrongs ; and that a change in Irish policy 
was a necessity of the time. 

The period from 1848 to 1868 forms a very striking 
episode in Irish History. The emigration of a great part of 
the people, in circumstances that must be deeply lamented, 
scattered the race over many foreign lands, and planted it 
firmly in the Far West ; the consequences have been already 
momentous ; we do not know what they may yet bring 
forth. The foolish and pitiable rising of 1848 turned the 
mind of England against Ireland : this was seen in legisla- 
tion which cannot be justified, in the Rate in Aid Act, the 

FROM 1848 TO 1868 199 

fatal Encumbered Estates Act, ruinous to the landed gentry, 
and pregnant with many evils — in the bad fiscal measures of 
1 853-1860 ; and aversion only grew into indifference, a 
dangerous attitude towards a weak and divided people. The 
removal, however, of impoverished millions from the Irish 
soil unquestionably had beneficial results ; Ireland made 
real material and social progress, and this has been to some 
extent permanent, s The tranquillity and the season of peace 
that followed was certainly deceptive in many respects ; 
reforms were neglected that ought to have been made, and 
good opportunities unhappily lost ; )and the political stag- 
nation that marks those years was attended with mischief in 
Irish affairs. Yet the order of things in Ireland might have 
been made better had not the Fenian conspiracy, expressing 
the hatred of the Irish abroad to British rule in Ireland, and 
to the Irish landlords, as a class, interfered to create con- 
fusion for a time, and, what was infinitely worse, to sow the 
seeds of evil, the full harvest of which has not been, even 
yet, gathered in. Fenianism cannot be ascribed, in justice, 
as it has been ascribed by a school of critics, to the gross 
misgovernment of Ireland at the time : it was a movement 
that sprung up outside Ireland, and was directed by Irish- 
men from distant lands ; it found little support from the 
Irish community on the spot. The conspiracy completely 
failed in its objects, and was contemptible in a certain 
sense ; but it powerfully affected English opinion ; it was to 
lead to immense changes in the state of Ireland ; and, in 
this sense, it was a most important event. Ireland was now 
to enter upon a path of reform and trouble, of which the end' 
it still out of sight ; and, as had so repeatedly been the case 
before, she was to have great influence in shaping the 
fortunes of England. 



Change of opinion in England and Scotland, with respect to 
Ireland, after the Fenian outbreak — Demand for reforms in 
Ireland — The position of the Irish Established Church — 
Combination of parties against it — Mr. Gladstone insists on 
its Disestablishment and Disendowment — He becomes Prime 
Minister after the General Election of 1868 — The Act of 
1869 disestablishing and disendowing the Church — Its charac- 
teristics and results — The Land System of Ireland in 1870 — The 
Land Act of 1870 — Origin of the Irish Home Rule movement — 
Isaac Butt — His scheme of Home Rule — Mr. Gladstone ridicules 
this policy — The Irish Education Bill of 1873 — Its grave defects — 
It fails to pass the House of Commons — Other Irish measures — 
Fall of Mr. Gladstone's Government — A large Home Rule party in 
Parliament after the General Election of 1874 — Policy of Butt and 
his followers — Home Rule rejected with contempt in the House of 
Commons — Failure of other measures proposed by Butt — Un- 
fortunate results — Butt's authority, as a leader, declines — Rise of 
Parnell — His antecedents and character — Policy of obstruction — 
Ability already shown by Parnell — Still further decline of Butt's 
influence — Irish measures of Lord Beaconfield's Government — 
State of Ireland in 1877-8 — Deceptive prosperity — Symptoms of 
danger — Optimism of Mr. Gladstone and other statesmen. 

The Fenian conspiracy had failed in Ireland ; but in Great 
Britain it had caused disorder and trouble ; and in a 
general sense it was an Irish movement, if it drew the chief 
elements of its strength from across the Atlantic. It had 
given rise, we have said, to a widespread conviction, that, 
notwithstanding the tranquillity of late years, large and 


searching reforms were required in Ireland, and that earnest 
efforts must be made to improve her condition ; and though 
this sentiment was partly due to alarm, for the secrecy and 
suddenness of the outbreaks had disturbed many hearts, it 
should be mainly ascribed to a nobler motive. The mind of 
England, in a word, turned again towards Ireland ; dislike 
and indifference were replaced by sympathy ; and the 
judgment of the nation plainly declared that a thorough 
change for the better must be effected in all that was peccant 
in the institutions and laws of Ireland, and, if possible, in 
the state of the Irish community. Of these institutions the 
Established Church was the one that appeared the most 
to be condemned, in the existing mood of English and 
Scotch opinion. Since the Commutation of the Tithe, 
many years previously, that Church was hardly a material 
grievance ; its revenues were derived, in the great mass 
of instances, from the Protestant landed gentry, not from the 
peasantry ; it is simply untrue, as we have said, that this 
class paid the Land Tax in the shape of increased rent, in 
nine out of ten cases at least. Nor were its clergy, as a rule, 
unpopular ; the odium that attached to them while they 
were armed with the power of confiscating the crop of the 
tiller of the soil, had given place to a kindly feeling ; they 
were generally looked upon as resident country gentlemen, 
often notable for their good works of charity. Many of the 
worst anomalies of the Church had also been removed 
since the reform accomplished by the Ministry of Lord 
Grey ; its wealth was more fairly distributed, and it did better 
work than of old ; it had many remarkable prelates and 
divines ; in Dublin and in most of the large towns it had 
acquired great and increasing spiritual power. As an institu- 
tion, in a word, it had distinctly improved ; and for this, and 
other reasons, Parliament had refused to interfere with it 
since the day of the Melbourne Government. But it was not 
the less a grave moral grievance, if we turn our eyes to 
Catholic Ireland ; it remained tainted with the vice of its 
origin ; it was but the establishment of a caste of conquerors 
planted in the midst of a conquered race ; it had no hold 

202 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

on the great mass of Irishmen. It was the Church of a 
mere sect, not one-eighth of the people ; it still abounded in 
pluralities, and in benefices without flocks ; in many of its 
parishes a congregation was a mere shadow. It was, in 
short, " in most of its branches a sterile tree without fruit " ; 
and its position was made the more untenable because it 
represented the Protestant Ascendency in the religious 
sphere, which, in the secular, had become a thing of the 
past. A few of its clergy, too, had made themselves odious 
by encouraging a proselytising movement of a most sinister 
kind. 1 

For these reasons the abolition of the Established Church 
of Ireland became a popular demand in England and 
Scotland, and in 1867, and the following year, was sustained 
by a great force of opinion. A concurrence of causes 
secured for this policy a powerful combination of parties 
in the State. In Ireland, we have seen, " the Young Ireland " 
following had never been completely extinct ; it gained 
strength when Fenianism proved abortive ; and, with the 
Irish Catholic priesthood, and their nominees in Parliament, 
the weak successors of O'Connell's " Tail," it had always 
denounced the Irish Established Church. A "National 
Association " was formed in Ireland, with Irish Catholic 
bishops at its head ; this called for the destruction of the 
Established Church ; and through the intervention of John 
Bright — he had been bidding in Ireland for Radical support, 
and had made a striking speech on the Irish Land system — 
it allied itself with the " Liberation Society " of the English 
Dissenters, which had the Disestablishment of all Churches 
in view. A rallying point was thus found for parties, before 
discordant, to coalesce in attacking the Established Church 
of Ireland ; and the state of affairs in Parliament worked 
in the same direction. A Conservative Government held 
office ; Disraeli had lately become Prime Minister ; with 
admirable skill and resource, if with little scruple, he had 

1 This was an attempt, chiefly promoted by zealots from England, to 
bribe Catholic children to become Protestants, literally to set Mammon 
against God. 


carried a great Reform Bill through the House of Commons ; 
and, in the existing state of politics, it was not improbable 
that the Conservative party might remain in power for a 
considerable time, for the Opposition, composed of Whigs 
and Radicals of many kinds, was divided, demoralised, and 
without apparent strength. On one subject, however, it 
was found possible to bring these disunited elements 
together ; they were ready to join in subverting the Irish 
Established Church, and in inaugurating in this way a new 
Irish policy. Mr. Gladstone, who, since the death of 
Palmerston, and the retirement of Lord John Russell from 
the House of Commons — he had gone to the Upper House 
as Earl Russell — had become the chief of the Liberal party, 
seized the occasion with characteristic energy and appre- 
ciation of the drift of public opinion ; in a debate on the 
state of Ireland, in the spring of 1868, he emphatically 
pronounced against the Church, declared that the time for 
its fall had come, and drew the whole Opposition in his 

In this attack on the Established Church of Ireland, Mr. 
Gladstone was less at odds with his former self than must 
have been inferred from his public conduct. Sufficient 
evidence now exists that he thought the position of the 
Church indefensible even in 1847 > an< ^ m J ^3 ne na ci 
wished to speak out on the subject. It was, nevertheless, 
the strange irony of fate, that it fell to the lot of Mr. 
Gladstone to overthrow an institution of which, for many 
years, he had been the avowed and distinguished champion ; 
and certainly in this, as in other passages of his career, he' 
palpably laid himself open to the charge, that he was 
making a mere party move, in which he had a special 
interest. Higher and better motives, however, were, no 
doubt, paramount ; yet it will hardly be affirmed that, in 
this matter, he adopted the course of a great statesman, 
who had only patriotic objects in view. Lord Russell had 
made up his mind by this time that the Established Church 
of Ireland was doomed ; but like Pitt, and nearly all 
politicians of a high order, he wished that a provision 

2o 4 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

should be made for the Irish Catholic priesthood ; and, like 
O'Connell, he thought that the Catholic Church of Ireland 
should receive part of the revenues of the Protestant Church 
should this be disestablished and disendowed. 1 In the 
debate referred to, this very policy was approved by Lord 
Mayo, the Chief Secretary, the Governor-General of India 
of a later day ; and assuredly it would have obtained the 
support of an overwhelming majority of enlightened Irish- 
men, if it was evident that the Established Church could 
no longer exist. Mr. Gladstone, however, announced, in 
vehement language, that projects of this kind were out of 
date, and idle, and that " concurrent endowment," as it was 
called, was not to be thought of ; and he plainly intimated 
that the Irish Established Church was not only to be 
disestablished and disendowed, but that grants to other 
Irish religious communions were to be withdrawn. Nor 
was this all ; in the Debates of the Session of 1868, and 
during the electoral struggle that followed, he condemned 
the whole system of British rule in Ireland — he had taken 
a conspicuous part in it — as deplorable in the highest 
degree ; he described Ireland as being blighted by a deadly 
upas tree overshadowing the Church, the Land, and the 
Education of men ; he assailed Protestant Ascendency, or 
what remained of it, in passionate and indignant phrases ; 
and he declared that Government in Ireland must, in the 
future, be more and more moulded on " Irish ideas." 
Whatever may be thought of their foresight and wisdom, 
these utterances were, at least, well devised to drive a 
Conservative Ministry from office, in a democratic age. 

A decisive effort of the national will placed Mr. Gladstone 
in power, with a great majority, after the General Election 
of 1868. He addressed himself at once to his Irish policy ; 
and brought forward a Bill, in the Session of 1869, for 
the abolition of the Established Church of Ireland, and 
incidentally for other purposes. His speech in the House 

1 Lord Russell would, in 1868, have bestowed a far larger part of the 
revenues of the Church on its Catholic rival than O'Connell proposed 
thirty-six years before. 


of Commons was one of his very best ; it was worthy of an 
orator, who never rose to the topmost heights of eloquence, 
but was a rhetorician of remarkable power and skill, and 
always conspicuous for his mastery of details. There was 
no trace of partisanship or violence in his words; his object 
was to show that he was setting the Church free from an 
alliance with the State, which had been a curse to her, and 
that he was helping her to fulfil a Divine mission ; he dwelt 
on these topics in most noble language. Disraeli's reply 
was made evidently against the grain ; curiously enough 
he adopted, on behalf of the Church, the arguments his 
adversary had employed before, in a well-known, but now 
obsolete book ; but Disraeli's heart was not in his work ; 
he had condemned the Irish Establishment even in the 
days of Peel. The measure was only feebly resisted ; it was 
partly amended in the House of Lords ; but it was not 
changed in its main principles; it passed into law at the 
close of the Session. The Irish Church Act, as it is 
commonly called, carried out the policy which its author 
had shadowed forth a few months before ; its primary 
purpose was to disestablish and disendow the Church ; but 
it dealt also with the benefits conferred by the State on the 
Presbyterian and Catholic Irish Churches. We may glance 
at the chief features of this celebrated law, which, if a 
scheme of destruction in some of its aspects, was in others 
constructive and not ungenerous. Under the provisions of 
the Act, the Established Church of Ireland ceased to be an 
institution connected with the State ; it was no longer 
" to rear its mitred front in Parliament ; " its dignities, its 
benefices, in short, all its offices were no longer to be at 
the disposition of the Crown. It was deprived, too, of 
nearly all its endowments ; these were vested in a Com- 
mission formed with this object ; it was thus disestablished, 
and, in the main, disendowed, and was placed on the footing 
of a voluntary church, analogous to the Episcopalian Church 
of Scotland. The law, however, went further in its sweep ; 
the Regium Donum given to the Presbyterian Church, 
and the grant to Maynooth for the Irish Catholic priesthood, 

206 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

were no longer to be charges defrayed by the State, but 
compensation was to be found for them out of the property 
of the Disestablished Church. 

So far for the work of simple destruction ; we turn to the 
constructive parts of the measure. Large facilities were 
wisely afforded by the law to enable the Church to organise 
itself again ; it was given the fullest powers of concerted 
action in Provincial Synods, and a General Synod ; it was 
invested with the right of almost complete self-government ; 
a Representative Body was attached to it, charged to ad- 
minister its funds and to protect its interests. The Church, 
therefore, as Mr. Gladstone intended, was allowed freedom 
and fair play ; and while parts of its endowments were not 
taken away, ample funds were reserved out of its late pro- 
perty to satisfy every vested interest, from the archbishop 
down to the humblest curate. It retained its cathedrals and 
parish churches ; it was to have its glebes and parochial 
houses on easy terms ; and an ingenious scheme was 
devised in the hope of securing a provision for the support 
of the Church in the future. As vested interests were to be 
respected, the ministers of the Disestablished Church were 
to be entitled to receive their former incomes from the 
funds of the Church set apart for the purpose ; but as this 
arrangement would lead to difficulty and delay, a " Com- 
mutation Fund" was created by advances made by the 
State on the revenues of the Church, in order to meet and 
discharge these claims. This fund would amount to a large 
capital sum. This accumulation would be a real induce- 
ment to the laity of the communion in all parts of Ireland 
to maintain their Church when it should depend on them- 
selves — that is, when the clergy then living had passed 
away ; it would be a strong incentive to private endowment ; 
and in this respect the scheme has been very successful. 
After the provision made in this way for vested interests, 
the surplus funds of the Church, still a sum of many 
millions sterling, were to be employed in making com- 
pensation for the Regium Donum and the Maynooth Grant, 
as before mentioned ; and the residue was to be appro- 


priated, from time to time, to the " relief of unavoidable 
suffering and calamity " — vague words capable of interpre- 
tation in almost any sense. Other parts of the Act do not 
require special notice. Power was taken to enable clergy- 
men who wished to leave Ireland and to pursue their 
calling elsewhere to " compound " for their incomes ; and 
the lands of the Church were, as far as possible, to be sold 
to the tenants occupying its estates, the purchase moneys 
being in part secured or advanced by the State in further- 
ance of a policy recently proposed by John Bright. 

This measure redressed a grave wrong, as far as Catholic 
Ireland was concerned ; it removed all but the last traces of 
Protestant Ascendency in Irish affairs. On the principles, 
too, in which it was framed, it was just — even generous — 
to the Church it cut off from the State ; and it provided 
skilfully for the preservation of that Church in the future. 
It was, nevertheless, a scheme of destruction ; it is difficult 
to maintain that a policy of this kind applied to Protestant, 
Presbyterian, and Catholic Ireland, and to a poor and dis- 
tracted country especially requiring the help of the State, 
was a far-sighted or a judicious policy. The worst fault, 
however, of this legislation was that, while a vast fund was 
placed at the disposition of the Government of the day, no 
provision was made for the Irish Catholic clergy — that is, for 
carrying out the plan of endowment which Pitt had wished 
to make a part of the Union, which O'Connell had expressly 
approved, and which had been advocated by every states- 
man of mark from 1800 to 1867, and by none more plainly 
than by Lord Russell. It is true that Lord Russell, at the- 
last moment, at the instance probably of Mr. Gladstone, 
abandoned that policy with great reluctance ; it is also true 
that the National Association declared against it in language 
apparently strong. But Lord Russell was about to leave the 
stage of politics, and doubtless disliked crossing the Liberal 
leader ; the National Association was working with the 
Liberation Society, which, assuredly, would have angrily 
opposed a measure of the kind ; and, after all, the declara- 
tion it made simply implied that the Irish Catholic priest- 

208 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

hood ought not to be made the salaried servants of the 
State, and did not imply that this order of men ought to 
refuse an endowment made on just and honourable terms. 
Lord Grey, the son of the minister of the great Reform Bill, 
the last survivor of the statesmen, who, in this matter, 
preserved the traditions of Pitt and Canning, placed it on 
record, only a few years ago, that an arrangement of this 
kind was feasible in 1868-9 ; x and his statement has never 
been put in question. A great opportunity was probably 
lost to carry into effect a policy which few will deny would 
have been of incalculable good to Ireland. 

Mr. Gladstone had expressed a confident hope that the 
Disestablishment of the Protestant Church would be a 
message of peace to Catholic Ireland, and be welcomed 
with loyal and heartfelt gratitude. The idea only showed 
how, like his predecessor, Pitt, he had not fathomed the 
depths of Irish questions or rightly interpreted Irish senti- 
ment. His measure was regarded by Irish Catholics as 
Emancipation and the Commutation of the Tithe were 
regarded in the days of O'Connell and Peel ; it was a con- 
cession to disorder, not a free act of justice ; and, besides, 
like Emancipation and the Commutation of the Tithe, Dis- 
establishment was many years too late. It may be an 
invidious remark that the violent language of Mr. Gladstone 
in 1868 provoked in Ireland dangerous and evil passions ; 
it is certain, however, that the first effort of his Irish policy 
was followed, not by goodwill and sympathy, but by an 
outburst of Whiteboyism and agrarian crime. Disestablish- 
ment did not soothe or satisfy Ireland ; yet it was probably 
well that a real grievance — the ascendency of the Church of 
a small minority — did not exist in Ireland during recent 
years of trouble. The good done by the measure, however, 
was in the main negative, and some of its results have not 
been fortunate. The large surplus funds of the Disestab- 
lished Church have been partly misapplied and wasted ; 
they have relieved the Exchequer from charges which ought 
to have been defrayed, in many instances, from the national 

1 See " Ireland," by Lord Grey, pp. 61-63. 


taxes. As for the Church since it has been set free from the 
State, the anticipations of Mr. Gladstone have been more 
felicitous. The Church, indeed, has had its seasons of trial 
and distress ; it has not been without internal dissension ; 
its financial position is far from assured, owing to the 
impoverishment of the landed gentry, the class on which 
it chiefly must rely for support. But it has emerged 
successfully, as yet, from troubles like these ; the moderate, 
not the extreme party prevails in its councils ; above all, 
as a Christian society, it is better ordered, more full of the 
spirit of its Master, more zealous of good works, more a 
beneficent power, than it was as an Erastian appanage of 
the corrupting Castle. It has been governed and adminis- 
tered, we should add, with much prudence and skill ; the 
capacity and faculty of organisation which its clergy and 
laity have exhibited in this sphere has done Protestant 
Ireland the highest honour. 1 

The first branch of the Upas-tree had fallen ; Mr. Glad- 
stone set himself to attack the second branch — the land 
system of Ireland and the relations it had formed. That 
system had not much changed since the years of tranquillity 
— from 1854 to 1865 ; but any changes in it had been for 
the worse, if we consider the Irish community as a whole. 
The work of consolidating farms had gone on ; fine speci- 
mens of farming on a large scale were often to be seen. 
Agriculture had continued to improve ; the breeds of 
farming stock were becoming every year better ; the face 
of the country showed signs of ever-quickening progress. 
Nevertheless Ireland remained, as before, a land, for the 
most part, of petty holdings ; the old cottar system had been 
largely broken up ; but even the immense emigration had 
left the soil in the possession, in the main, of a race of mere 

1 An admirable description of the Disestablishment of the Church of 
Ireland, of the characteristics of the Irish Church Act, and of the 
subsequent fortunes of the Disestablished Church will be found in 
Ball's " Reformed Church of Ireland," pp. 258-305. The author, a late 
Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was one of the ablest opponents of Mr. 

; Gladstone's measure ; his speech in the House of Commons on " con- 

] current endowment " is a masterly performance. 


210 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

peasantry. As for the real landed gentry, they were what 
they had always been, divided from their inferiors in race 
and faith, often kindly and good, seldom harsh or oppres- 
sive, but with a turn to strict dealing that had been 
increasing ; and the new race of landlords, with their evil 
tendencies, had been multiplying under the operation of the 
Encumbered Estates Acts. The whole order was probably, 
at this time, more separated from its dependents than it had 
been ; and partly through fear of a renewal of the move- 
ment of 1850-52, and partly from the assurances of British 
statesmen that their position was perfectly secure, some 
landlords had become more and more exacting. As for 
the occupiers of the soil, the rate of rent had been rising ; 
and though it was not as high as it had been thirty years 
before, it was becoming excessive in not a few instances, 
owing to the growing competition for land following the 
augmented wealth of the country. The great grievance, 
however, of the Irish tenant farmer was that to which we 
have adverted before — insecurity of tenure and the circum- 
stance that, in numberless cases, he had gained, through 
improvement or from sums paid on the sale of farms, rights 
often amounting to joint-ownership, and yet that these 
rights were not protected by law if, in the Northern Pro- 
vince, upheld by custom. This grave and palpable wrong 
had become worse ; five-sixths probably of the occupiers of 
the soil in Ireland had sunk into the class of mere tenants- 
at-will ; even the Tenant Right of Ulster had, in some 
instances, been " nibbled away " by a certain class of land- 
lords ; and at the same time the joint-ownership, often 
morally a fact, but legally ignored in the courts of justice, 
had gradually been more and more developed. Harsh 
evictions, also, had become more frequent ; and these 
had been attended with their ordinary result — not a few 
frightful cases of agrarian crime. 

British sympathy with Ireland was still a living force, 
though the Liberal party had been vexed and surprised 
that the Irish Church Act was bearing no fruit, and though 
a severe measure of repression was found necessary to put 


down the agrarian disturbances which, we have seen, had 
multiplied. 1 In the summer and autumn of 1869 a number 
of distinguished English and Scotchmen went to Ireland 
to examine on the spot the conditions and facts of her land 
system ; the British Press sent more than one contributor ; 
a flood of instructive light was thrown on the subject. 
Mr. Gladstone had his measure ready at the opening of the 
Session of 1870 ; no minister, who had to deal with an Irish 
question, had received such valuable assistance before. The 
speech he made in the House of Commons in bringing in 
his Bill was a good historical review of the Irish land 
system ; it clearly explained that Irish land tenure, though 
nominally the same as that which exists in England, was 
essentially, and in its working, completely different. The 
speech, however, was tentative and not striking ; the orator 
did not openly claim for the Irish tenant rights even 
approaching joint-ownership, though his language pointed 
in that direction ; he probably did not wish to alarm 
hearers, of whom some thought English land tenure 
perfect, others believed Irish Tenant Right to be an 
infraction of Free Trade, and the majority knew little about 
the subject. The most remarkable passages in the speech, 
however, regard being had to events that followed, were 
those in which Mr. Gladstone held up to contempt the 
whole theory of the " Three Fs," at this time the extreme 
demand of the Irish tenant. " Fair Rent " meant the sub- 
version of contracts, and could not be properly adjusted by 
the State ; " Fixity of Tenure " would be the expropriation 
of landlords, as a class, and would confine the possession ' 
of the land to a few thousand farmers ; " Free Sale " was 
open to grave objections ; these claims, in short, were ex- 
travagant and incompatible with the just rights of property. 
Mr. Gladstone significantly added that the Bill he had 
prepared was to be a final settlement of the Irish Land 
Question, that it would place the Irish land system on 
foundations not to be disturbed. He little thought that his 
decisive arguments, and his solemn pledges were, in a few 
1 See the figures in Grey's " Ireland," p. 79. 

212 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

years, to be set at nought, and scattered to the winds by 

The Conservative party, since the days of Peel, had been 
more liberal and enlightened than the Whigs, as regards 
reform in the Irish land system ; though Disraeli made 
sarcastic remarks on the complexity of Mr. Gladstone's 
Bill — by no means undeserved criticism — the Opposition 
accepted a great part of the scheme, and it was not largely 
altered in the House of Lords. The measure, if very far 
from perfect, nay marked by plain and far-reaching defects, 
and giving proof of the obscurity, and, so to speak, the 
reserve characteristic of the introductory speech, was, never- 
theless, in some respects, a statesmanlike and effective 
reform, and was far superior to every preceding measure 
of the kind. The Tenant Right of Ulster depending on 
usage before, received, for the first time, the sanction of 
law ; the same rule was extended to an inchoate Right, 
beginning to grow up in the Southern Provinces, though 
the instances of this were very few ; legitimate security was 
thus afforded to a series of rights of the nature of joint- 
ownership, which hitherto had been comparatively insecure, 
and were becoming more so year after year. The Land 
Act of 1870 — this was its name — went, however, much 
farther in this direction. It engrafted on the immense 
majority of Irish tenancies, a Tenant Right of a potential 
kind, in the form of " Compensation for Disturbance " to 
be made available when dispossession on a notice to quit 
was at hand ; it added to this a further Right, that of " Com- 
pensation for Improvements," past and present, arranged 
on an extremely liberal scale, and to be realised when a 
tenant was quitting his farm. No attempt was made 
generally to fix rent by the State ; but in a few exceptional 
cases "exorbitant rents" made a landlord subject to severe 
penalties, and eviction was discouraged in many ways, in 
order to give stability and support to the interest of the 
occupier of the soil. 

By these means, though indirectly, and by a circuitous 
process, the concurrent rights of the Irish tenant in the 


land, and his joint-ownership, where these existed, were 
vindicated to a considerable extent ; the land system, as 
respects the tenants' position, was unquestionably very 
much improved ; Law and Fact, in conflict before in landed 
relations, were, in the large majority, perhaps, of instances 
reconciled. The measure, however, was supplemented by 
alternatives, not in its true spirit, and having a tendency to 
weaken it, and to make it less effective than it seemed. 
Mr. Gladstone, naturally affected by English ideas, and not 
governed, in this province, by Irish, evidently thought that 
the Irish system of land tenure, though to be maintained 
and upheld as regards the rights belonging to the tenant, 
which it had evolved, ought gradually to be replaced by 
the English system ; and in order to carry into effect this 
process, he sought for a model in English land tenure. 
The Land Act, therefore, enabled the rights of the tenant, 
whatever their extent or value, to be commuted, by agree- 
ment, in almost all cases ; they might generally be ex- 
tinguished, at least in a great degree, by a grant to the 
tenant of a lease of thirty-one years ; and, what was rnore 
important, tenants of farms of the larger class were 
empowered to " contract themselves out " of the benefits 
of the law, that is, to consent to divest themselves of the 
privileges it conferred. In this way an object of the 
measure was to substitute English for Irish tenure ; as it 
was remarked at the time, it was to be hoped that the Irish 
land system would, in the long run, be based on the footing 
of pure contract throughout the relations of landlord and 
tenant. The Act, besides creating large powers of leasing, 
in furtherance of the last-named object, contained pro- 
visions for the formation of a class of peasant owners of 
land in Ireland — this, we have seen, was a favourite policy 
of John Bright — and, as in the case of the lands of the 
Church, so in the case of all other lands, tenants were 
encouraged to acquire their farms by purchase, the State 
advancing a part of the purchase moneys. 

This Land Act was deserving of high praise ; but it had 
faults that marred its practical value. It was marked with 

2i 4 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

the nimia siibtilitas of its author's intellect, worse even in 
legislator than in a judge; it bristled with exceptions and 
limitations ; it was, in many places, extremely obscure ; it 
was not intelligible to ordinary minds. It was, therefore, 
far beyond the ken of the unlettered peasant, who either 
regarded it with the distrust of ignorance, or feared that 
it would bring on him an attorney's costs ; it did not 
appeal to his imagination, or affect his judgment, as a plain 
and comprehensive scheme of Tenant Right would have 
done. Besides, though it really did vindicate the con- 
current rights of the tenant and his joint-ownership, it 
accomplished this only on conditions which the ordinary 
Irish peasant abhorred ; save in the cases of the Ulster or 
similar customs, the compensation given by the law to the 
tenant was to be given only on his quitting his farm ; and 
as this was what he could not bear to do, the law seemed 
to him to be of little avail ; it did not keep him in the 
holding to which he fondly clung. A consequence of this 
sentiment, too, was that he was willing to submit to almost 
any terms, such as increased and even excessive rent, 
rather than abandon his beloved home ; the rights, there- 
fore, which he had, in fact r acquired, were practically some- 
times to little purpose. The alternatives, besides, which 
the law presented, had a tendency to weaken its best 
provisions ; in thousands of instances tenants accepted the 
leases that discharged their claims to Tenant Right, or 
" contracted themselves out " of the benefits of the Act ; 
and in some of them they were under the influence of 
undue pressure. For all these reasons the law was not felt 
to be the great and generous boon it really was ; in some 
respects it did not work well ; above all, it afforded the 
means of being evaded and practically annulled. Able 
Irishmen predicted its comparative failure at the time : two 
proposed solutions of the problem that deserved attention. 
Butt, the opponent of O'Connell in 1842, to whom we shall 
soon have occasion to refer, recommended that tenancies- 
at-will in Ireland should be converted into leaseholds for 
sixty-three years, 1 at rents to be settled by a tribunal of the 
1 " The Irish People and the Irish Land," by Butt. 


State ; Longfield, a Judge of the Encumbered Estates 
Court, and, like Butt, a master of the Irish land question, 
suggested that a Tenant Right, at a fixed value, should be 
annexed generally to Irish farms, and should be declared to 
be the tenants fteculium ; x a bold and generous extension 
of the famous Ulster custom. These plans were less 
ambitious than that of Mr. Gladstone ; but they were 
simple, and might have proved successful ; regard being 
had to subsequent events, it is perhaps unfortunate that 
the Minister turned a deaf ear to them. 

Nevertheless, despite shortcomings and faults, the Land 
Act of 1870 was well received in Ireland. It made no im- 
pression, indeed, on agrarian crime, which continued un- 
diminished for some months, and was only kept under by 
the coercion, which ultimately, as always, proved an effec- 
tive check. But Mr. Gladstone's Government in Ireland 
was, for a time, popular ; this, no doubt, was due, in a great 
degree, to the character and conduct of his Lord- Lieu- 
tenant, Lord Spencer, the successor of Lord Wodehouse and 
the Duke of Abercorn, a singularly upright and sympathetic 
ruler. A movement, meanwhile, at first trivial, but destined 
to lead to an era of trouble, which at that moment would have 
been thought impossible, had begun to make a kind of 
languid stir ; it proceeded from an wholly unexpected source. 
Macaulay had predicted that Ireland would draw near 
England if the wrong of the Established Church were re- 
moved ; Plunket, more profound and knowing Ireland 
much better, declared that it would arouse Protestant 
Ireland against the Union, for the Church had been solemnly 
secured by the Treaty. The words of the great orator 
proved, to some extent, true ; since the failures of 1843 and 
1848, scarcely a voice against the Union had been raised in 
Ireland, as indeed, had usually been the case since the day 
of Pitt ; an agitation against it was now set qn foot by a 
small but active party of discontented Protestants, who pro- 
nounced a great international compact broken ; and these 
found adherents among the men of " Young Ireland," who, 
1 " Systems of Land Tenure." Essay by Longfield. 

216 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

we have seen, had been stirring of late, among the Rump 
of the old Repeal following, by tradition faithful to 
O'Connell's creed, and among others who had Fenian 
sympathies and views, but who thought it prudent to conceal 
them at the present moment. 

The leader of the new movement was Isaac Butt, to whom 
we have cursorily referred before ; he was a remarkable 
man, who will live in Irish History, though, owing to a 
variety of causes, he never rose to the political eminence 
he might have attained. Butt was the son of a Protestant 
clergyman of the North of Ireland ; he inherited the ideas of 
the dominant caste ; but his understanding was profound, 
and his heart generous ; he soon adopted the faith of Burke 
and of Grattan, and became a Liberal Irishman, if not in 
a party sense, still according to the proper meaning of the 
word. He had great University renown ; quickly rose to a 
leading position at the Irish Bar ; and certainly would have 
won its highest honours, for he was an excellent lawyer and 
a consummate advocate, had he followed his profession 
with anything like care and diligence. He turned his mind, 
however, in early life to politics; he had an erratic and 
questionable career in Parliament ; and for some years 
was almost in eclipse, so desperate and broken were his 
fortunes. Butt, nevertheless, was a man of commanding 
intellect, deeply versed in History and Constitutional 
Law, an economist of a high order, though not a believer 
in the gospel of Cobden, Conservative in his instincts, as 
O'Connell was, and though associated with a movement 
which had a revolutionary side, and always jealous of the 
liberties and rights of Ireland, a reverent supporter of order 
and law, and with a strong sympathy with the. just claims of 
property, interpreted in a reasonable sense. Such a man 
ought to have gained real distinction in the State ; but Butt 
was unstable as water, and not made to excel ; with some 
of Sheridan's qualities, he had Sheridan's foibles ; he was 
improvident, reckless, of a weak character ; though kindly 
and good-natured, unable to win confidence ; in a word, 
unfit to be a leader of men, or to bow a political party to his 


will. Though he advocated their views in most instances, 
he was distrusted by the Irish Catholic priesthood, and never 
had a hold on the Irish Catholic masses, a marked contrast 
in this respect to O'Connell ; nor was this only because he 
was a Protestant ; Protestants have repeatedly been a great 
power in Catholic Ireland ; we need only refer to Swift, 
Grattan, Tone, and Lord Edward Fitzgerald. 

In the Debate on the Repeal of the Union, in the Cor- 
poration of Dublin referred to before, Butt, the real spokes- 
man of the Conservative party, had rested his defence of the 
Treaty mainly on the fact that time was still required to 
prove what its full results would be ; O'Connell, in replying 
to his young antagonist, predicted that he would " yet be- 
come a Repealer." The series of events between 1842 and 
1868-70 may have shaken the faith of Butt in a measure 
he had not defended with his whole heart ; but it was the 
Fenian movement and its ominous symptoms that caused him 
to change his mind as regards the Union. He had ably de- 
fended the Fenian prisoners ; he had necessarily become 
acquainted with their designs ; he seems to have thought 
the conspiracy would have led to a bloody rising, had it been 
associated with Lalor's agrarian movement ; it was mainly 
on this account that he put forward his scheme for a great 
reform of the Irish land system. Be this as it may, Ireland, 
in his judgment, was in a critical and disaffected state ; the 
only way to remedy this evil was, he believed, to adopt 
boldly the policy of what he called Home Rule, that is to 
secure for Ireland a Legislature of her own, and an Ad- 
ministration dependent on it. Butt, however, perceived that 
the restoration of the Irish Parliament was all but impossible, 
in an order of things in Ireland that had been completely 
changed ; and partly on this ground, and partly because 
a small party in Ulster had, we have seen, given ear to what 
was known as " Federalism " in Irish affairs, he proposed a 
plan founded on a principle of this kind. 1 His views are to 
be found in a tract, now almost forgotten, but still deserving 

1 Butt hinted that, in 1843-4, the Whig party rather favoured Fede- 
ralism. He gave no authority for a statement certainly unfounded. 

218 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

attentive study, as being the case made by a very able 
man for practically doing away with the Union, and giving 
Ireland a -domestic Parliament and a Government on the 
spot. The work is written in a Conservative spirit, with an 
avowed purpose to reconcile the scheme of the author with 
the Constitution as it at present exists, and with a marked 
aversion to unnecessary change. Yet Butt's plan was im- 
practicable, and could only appear plausible by keeping out 
of sight the facts that would make it hopeless ; and, besides, 
it was essentially unjust, and what he did not, or would not 
see, it would have subverted the Constitution in a vital part. 
In his " Irish Federalism " he proposed that a Parliament 
and an Administration should be set up in Dublin charged 
with the direction of " Irish affairs " only ; but he did not 
attempt to define what Irish affairs might mean, a definition 
which experience and prolonged discussions have since 
proved to be simply impossible. Yet this was not the most 
fatal objection ; Butt proposed, further, that the members 
of the Irish Parliament should repair to, and vote in the 
Imperial Parliament, that is that Ireland was to have a direct 
influence on Imperial, perhaps on British, policy, and very 
probably to shape and control it, and yet that the Imperial 
Parliament, as to Ireland, was to be powerless ! The present 
generation has, at least, learned that such a scheme would be 
rank injustice, and would annihilate the very foundations of 
the State. 

A Home Rule Association was, nevertheless, formed ; and 
Home Rule began to be a popular cry in Ireland. The 
movement was sustained by a few Irish bye-elections ; but 
for many months it continued to be weak ; in England 
and Scotland it was looked upon as mere Celtic foolish- 
ness. Mr. Gladstone, still in the plenitude of his power, 
convinced of the excellence of his Irish policy, and still 
believing in the wisdom of the Imperial Parliament, treated 
the demand for Home Rule with scornful contempt : "Can 
any sensible man, can any rational man " — he exclaimed 
with passionate earnestness, and, doubtless, with real con- 
viction at the time — " suppose that at this time of day, in this 


condition of the world, we are going to disintegrate the great 
capital institutions of the country for the purpose of making 
ourselves ridiculous in the sight of all mankind, and crip- 
pling any power we possess for bestowing benefits, through 
legislation, on the country to which we belong ? " x At this 
juncture, indeed, he was devoting himself to the third and last 
branch of the famous Upas-tree, and was forming a scheme 
for education of the higher kind in Ireland, which he 
rightly thought was in need of a large and searching reform. 
High education in Ireland had undergone no change since 
Peel had attempted to reform the system, with results that 
had, for the most part, been failures, and since the Catholic 
University had been founded, that is for a period of nearly 
twenty years ; and the system continued to be one-sided 
and unjust, especially with respect to the Irish Catholic. 
Attempts had, indeed, been made to throw open the prizes 
and the government of Trinity College to all Irishmen with- 
out regard to distinctions of creed, to enable the Catholic 
University to become, so to speak, a preparatory school lead- 
ing to degrees, nay, even to give it some help from the State ; 
but all these had, for different reasons, proved abortive, 
and nothing had been really accomplished in the way of 
reform. Trinity College, with its large estates and endow- 
ments, was still a Protestant foundation in no doubtful 
sense ; its governing body was wholly Protestant ; nearly 
all its rewards were confined to the favoured creed ; Catholics, 
indeed, were often admitted within its pale, and had the 
advantage of the excellent education it gave ; but its teach- 
ing was Protestant, nay, anti-Catholic in part. The Queen's 
Colleges and University remained fashioned on the model 
originally formed for them ; they were secular places of 
learning in which religion was not recognised by the State, 
and was only taught by accident ; they had proved a boon 
to Presbyterian Ireland, but Catholic Ireland had stood 
aloof from them, especially since the declaration of the 
Synod of Thurles. And the Catholic University was still kept 
outside these favoured seminaries of the State, supported by 
1 Speech on receiving the freedom of Aberdeen, September 26, 1871. 

220 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

the contributions of a poor communion, arid yet a mere 
school unable to confer a degree. 

Mr. Gladstone brought forward his measure of reform in 
the first weeks of the Session of 1873. The difficulties in 
his way were very great ; he had to reconstruct an anoma- 
lous and unjust system ; he had to deal with powerful and 
conflicting interests ; he had, if possible, to conciliate Irish 
sentiment, divided on this and other subjects ; he had to 
gain the consent of the Liberal party obviously not at one 
in this matter. He made a singularly dexterous and ingeni- 
ous speech, and the scheme he proposed was vast and far- 
reaching ; but it was the worst conceived of his Irish 
reforms of this time ; and it ended in complete and 
disastrous failure. We need not examine this abortive 
project in detail ; it is sufficient to glance at its main 
features. With the historical and Conservative views, of 
which his legislation has sometimes borne the mark, Mr. 
Gladstone proposed to create a University for Ireland, as 
a whole, which Elizabeth and the Stuarts had wished to 
create, but which had been swallowed up, as it were, by 
Trinity College, and, after the enactment of the Penal Code, 
could not have embraced Catholic Ireland within its sphere. 
This University was to have a general control over Irish 
education of the higher order ; its governing body was to 
be composed in part of nominees of the Castle, in part 
of the heads of the institutions to be connected with it; 
and Trinity College and two of the Queen's Colleges — the 
third was to be suppressed as useless — the Catholic Uni- 
versity and some other Colleges were to be affiliated to 
it, as subordinate members. The Queen's University, of 
course, was to be extinguished, for one University only was 
to exist in Ireland ; but the groups of Colleges dependent 
on it were to be in very different but unequal positions. 
Trinity College was to be thrown open, to the fullest extent ; 
its prizes and honours might be obtained by all who entered 
its walls, without regard to creed ; but with the exception 
of a small annual sum, which the new University was to' 
acquire, it was to retain its great endowments intact. The 


two Queen's Colleges, too, were to be subsidised, as before, 
by the State ; but the Catholic University was not to receive 
a shilling ; and this was to be the case also of the other 
dependent Colleges, if these were of a sectarian character. 
The scheme, therefore, as regards support by the State, was, 
on the face of it, in the highest degree, partial ; but this 
was far from the worst of its curious provisions. ' The new 
University alone 1 was to confer degrees ; and Mr. Glad- 
stone actually applied with respect to education of the 
highest type, the principles which had with difficulty been 
applied to Primary Education in the National Schools, and 
which as regards the Queen's Colleges and the Queen's Uni- 
versity, were not only vicious, but had been denounced as 
" godless " by the Conservative party, and by the Irish 
Catholic bishops. The education to be afforded under the 
proposed system was to be united, but strictly secular ; 
religious education might be apart, but was not to receive 
any countenance from the State ; it was, in fact, left to 
shift for itself ; and that secular education might be purely 
secular, Modern History, and Mental and Moral Philosophy 
were to be excluded from University teaching ! 2 

The ignorance of Irish affairs and Irish opinion, so 
repeatedly seen in British statesmen, was more that ordi- 
narily conspicuous in this scheme ; it is surprising, indeed, 
that an illustrious son of Oxford should have been the 
author of such an ill-planned measure. The Bill was 
literally torn to shreds in admirable debates in Trinity 
College ; its leading men expressed just and generous views 
with respect to the claims of Catholic Ireland ; 3 but they 
were indignant that a famous and ancient place of learning 
should be made subject to a mere Board of the Govern- 
ment ; above all, that the noblest intellectual studies were to 
have no place, as far as the State was concerned, in the 

1 This has been denied but seems to be the true meaning of the Bill. 

2 For a masterly analysis of Mr. Gladstone's Irish Education Bill of 
1873, see a pamphlet by Butt called "The Problem of Irish Educa- 

3 I had the privilege of hearing these remarkable debates. 

222 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

Alma Mater of Ussher, of Burke, and of Berkeley. The Irish 
Catholic Bishops were even more hostile ; they condemned 
the project as simply " godless " ; they rightly complained 
that it was essentially unjust, for while Trinity College, and 
two Queen's Colleges were to be still amply endowed by 
the State, the Catholic University was to be left penniless. 
Every educated Irishman, too, resented that Divinity, 
Modern History, and Mental and Moral Philosophy were 
not to be a part of the University course of study ; the 
measure in this respect was compared to the "monstrum 
cui lumen ademptum " of the Song of Virgil. These ideas 
passed quickly into the House of Commons, which became 
more and more averse to the Bill. Disraeli described the 
scheme as atheistic, and certainly said what he really felt, 
for, like Burke, he was a religious man at heart ; he ridiculed 
and severely censured the exclusion of the best parts of 
human knowledge, from what was grotesquely called a Uni- 
versity's domain ; the whole Conservative party followed 
their leader. 1 Mr. Gladstone's adherents were divided in 
.mind ; the representatives of the English Dissenters, indeed, 
grateful that he had pulled down an Established Church, 
and scarcely knowing what University life is, voted for the 
measure almost to a man ; but the best and most thoughtful 
Liberals pronounced against it ; and only eleven out of 
more than a hundred Irish members gave their assent. 
The Bill was rejected by a small majority ; though Mr. 
Gladstone remained in office, his powerful administration 
was practically broken up, another of the many instances of 
the great influence Ireland has over and over again exercised 
on British and Imperial affairs. 

The subordinate Irish measures of this Ministry require 
a few words. The Convention Act of 1793-4 was repealed ; 
wider latitude was given to organised popular movements. 
The borough franchise had been enlarged in 1868 ; the Ballot 
Act, passed in 1872, increased sacerdotal influence greatly 
in Catholic Ireland. One of the few restrictions of the 

1 The speech of Ball, then member for Trinity College, was also very- 
able and brilliant. 


Emancipation Act was removed ; a Catholic was made 
Lord Chancellor of Ireland, for the first time since the 
Revolution of 1688 ; the Lord-Lieutenancy is now the only 
Irish office which a Catholic is not eligible to fill. The 
great Irish reforms of Mr. Gladstone are those which alone 
deserve much attention. The Disestablishment and Dis- 
endowment of the Church unquestionably removed a grave 
wrong ; but it was hardly a statesmanlike, and was not a 
successful measure ; it was not accompanied, as it ought 
have been, with an essential, but neglected, supplement of 
the Union, a provision for the Irish Catholic clergy. The 
Land Act of 1870 was a really great measure of reform ; it 
could have been made the basis of a scheme of almost per- 
fect justice ; but, as it was enacted, it had serious defects, nor 
could it permanently settle a question difficult in the extreme. 
The Education Bill was vicious and unfair ; it revealed extra- 
ordinary ignorance of Irish opinion ; it was properly rejected 
by the House of Commons ; and this branch of the Upas- 
tree has not yet been wholly cut down. This Administra- 
tion may be fitly compared, as regards Ireland and her 
affairs, with that of Lord Melbourne. Its legislation was 
much more thorough and bold, and was attended, on the 
whole, with more success ; its administration was liberal 
and just, but had not such striking and beneficent results, 
no doubt because an O'Connell was not on the stage of 
politics to represent and to manage Catholic Ireland. It 
must be added that, under Mr. Gladstone's Government, as 
under the Melbourne Government of more than thirty years 
before, British sympathy with Ireland was beginning to- 
cool, though not so markedly, and that from the same 
causes. There was no O'Connell to exasperate public 
opinion ; but the nation was becoming tired of Irish 
questions, and thought Ireland ungrateful for what had 
been done for her. 

Mr. Gladstone's Ministry was replaced by that of Disraeli 
in the first months of 1874 ; the change then effected in the 
direction of the State was felt from the Euphrates to the 
Andes, and Ireland had a considerable part in producing 

224 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

the result. After the General Election of that year, sixty 
representatives were returned from Ireland to support the 
new found policy of Home Rule ; but they were not backed 
by a great force of Irish opinion, though, for the first time 
since the days of Pitt and Grattan, they formed a majority 
of Irish members against the Union. The party, as a whole, 
was a motley assemblage without coherence or essential 
strength ; it was composed of Protestants dissatisfied with 
the Church Act, of Catholics with O'Connell's traditions, of 
men of Young Ireland earnest in the Home Rule cause, and 
of a few who had separation from England at heart, and 
were ready to join any movement in that direction. As in 
the case of the Tenant Right League, they were bound 
together by pledges to act in concert, to refuse places, 
and generally to obey their leader ; but these obligations 
sat lightly on them, and they were widely divided in 
thought and sympathy. Butt was, of course, at the 
head of the band ; but he was not, we have seen, a ruler of 
men ; his previous Parliamentary career was against him ; 
he had passed his sixtieth year and was old for his age ; his 
adherents were a mere discordant faction, as weak as any 
that Ireland had sent into the House of Commons. The 
cause of Home Rule, therefore, had no moral weight ; Butt, 
nevertheless, brought it forward in debate for three or four 
Sessions. His speeches were able, dexterous, and well- 
informed ; they were temperate and Conservative in tone ; 
but the speaker had too much of the forensic manner ; his 
accent and demeanour were not in his favour ; he hardly 
caught the ear of the House of Commons ; he never grappled 
thoroughly with the difficulties in his way. He was 
challenged over and over again, to unfold his plan of Home 
Rule in a definite shape, to explain the powers and the 
limitations of the proposed Irish Parliament, to show how 
a partition could be made between the Irish affairs to 
which it was to be confined, and the British and Imperial 
affairs it was not to deal with ; above all, to reconcile with 
common sense and justice the project that Irish representa- 
tives were to sit at Westminster, and to take part in the 


government of the State, while the Imperial Parliament was 
to have nothing to do with Ireland. He was fairly beaten 
in argument and completely outvoted ; of all his opponents 
none were more convincing and outspoken than Mr. Glad- 
stone/ who at once fastened on the anomalies and unfair- 
ness of the scheme, ignorant as yet that Nemesis was to 
commend the poisoned chalice to his lips. 

Butt, however, was not a visionary ; he knew that Home 
Rule was a policy that could only make its way slowly ; he 
had resolved to supplement it by plans for Irish reforms, 
which might have a chance of success in a not distant future. 
The defects of the Land Act were becoming apparent ; he 
had written a very able tract on the subject ; he laid before 
Parliament a new scheme of his own, founded on the 
principle of the " Three F.'s," but keeping its application 
within bounds and at least easy to understand. He also 
prepared a plan, analogous to that of Drummond, for the 
purchase by the State of the Irish railways ; these had mainly 
depended on private enterprise, and, as might have been 
expected, had not been very successful, in a poor country, 
without a great middle-class, and to which the " commercial 
principle " often is not applicable ; his arguments certainly 
had real weight. The chief, however, of these, his minor 
efforts, were projects to change the basis of Irish County 
Government — conducted for the most part by Grand Juries, 
bodies of the landed gentry, practically chosen from the 
Castle — and to make its foundations broad and popular ; 
and especially to improve the system of Irish Municipal 
Government, which, we have seen, was contracted and 
narrow, since it had been dealt with by the Melbourne 
Ministry. The Corporate towns of Ireland had been so 
reduced in number, since they had been affected by the 

1 Mr. Gladstone's words should be quoted, " Hansard," March 20, 
1874 : — " The plan is this — that exclusively Irish affairs are to be judged 
in Ireland, and that then the Irish members are to come to the Imperial 
Parliament and to judge as they may think fit of the general affairs of 
the Empire, and also of affairs exclusively English and Scotch' 1 This 
last power was possibly not intended to be given by Butt. 


226 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

Act of 1840, that it had been necessary to give municipal 
rights, in 1854, to many towns of comparatively small size; 
these were placed under the management of Town Com- 
missioners, elected in a popular way by the townsmen. But 
the powers of all the Corporate or quasi-Corporate towns 
of Ireland remained very restricted, and the franchise was 
high ; and undoubtedly this made their municipal life 
feeble, and checked their development and aptitude for self- 
government, though, as we have said, it is idle to suppose 
that municipal life in Ireland can resemble what it is in 
England, a country not of petty towns, but of great and 
expanding cities. Butt's proposals on these subjects were 
not without merit ; but these, and all his projects of the 
kind, were summarily rejected by the House of Commons, 
indeed, seldom received a patient hearing. This was a 
mistake to be greatly regretted ; and yet, in the circum- 
stances of the time, it can hardly cause surprise. Mr. Glad- 
stone was taking little part in politics, except with regard to 
the Eastern Question, as to which he was to be the leader 
of a mighty movement ; he had been incensed at the fate 
of his Irish Education Bill ; he had vehemently asserted 
that every debt due to Ireland by Parliament had been fully 
discharged. 1 Disraeli, soon to become Lord Beaconsfield, 
was becoming engaged in the troubles in the East ; his 
Ministry had little time for Irish affairs ; and, above all, 
opinion in England and Scotland was rapidly turning again 
against Ireland, and disliked the idea of further Irish ex- 
periments. It had resented that Mitchell, the rebel of 1848, 
and a fanatic of the old Phoenix conspiracy, had been 
returned by Irish constituencies to the House of Commons ; 

1 Mr. Gladstone's words must again be quoted, " The Vatican Decrees," 
p. 59 : — " When Parliament had passed the Church Act of 1869, and the 
Land Act of 1870, there remained only, under the great head of 
Imperial equity, one serious question to be dealt with, that of the 
higher education. I consider that the Liberal majority of the House 
of Commons, and the Government to which I had the honour and 
gratification to belong, formally tendered payment in full of this portion 
of the debt by the Irish University Bill of 1873. Some, indeed, think 
that it was overpaid. 


and it was indignant that a movement against the Union 
should have been the answer made by Ireland to Mr. Glad- 
stone's great measures of reform. 

The ignominious failure of the policy of Butt had its 
natural effect on his ill-united followers. The Protestants, 
beginning, perhaps, to be alarmed about Home Rule, drifted 
into the ranks of the Tory party ; the Catholics inclined 
towards the Whig Opposition ; the rest of the party was 
left all but powerless. Butt was a beaten general, with the 
wreck of an army ; but, meantime, two or three of his 
adherents had had recourse to conduct which they may 
have thought would compel the attention of Parliament to 
Irish questions, but which was probably, at first, the ex- 
pedient of mere despair. One of this obscure group which 
persisted in obstructive tactics, never witnessed before to 
such an extent, was a man, still quite young, who had just 
entered the House of Commons, and was destined to play a 
conspicuous part on the stage of events, but who, at this 
moment, was as insignificant as Robespierre, with whom he 
had certain points in common, seemed to be in the National 
Assembly at Versailles. Charles Stewart Parnell's figure is 
still too near us to be viewed in the sober light of History, 
and passages in his career remain unexplained ; but we may 
glance at his antecedents, and some at least of the features 
of his character stand out in full relief. He was a scion, 
on his father's side, of a family which had had distinguished 
representatives in the Irish Parliament — one, a friend of 
Grattan, who fiercely denounced the Union — and had also an 
eminent member of the Imperial Parliament, remarkable for 
his extreme Radical views ; on his mother's side he was an 
American by blood, and was a grandson of an American of 
great ability, who had won a name in the war of 181 2, and 
had made himself notable for his hatred of England. 
Though one of the " English in Ireland " and possessing 
some English qualities, he thus inherited feelings hostile to 
England ; and educated, though he had been, in England he 
had learned to sympathise with Irish rebellion in youth, and 
with what is known as the Irish cause. He had been filled, 

228 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

in his teens, with tales of the rising of 1798, for his home 
was among the valleys of Wicklow ; his surviving parent had 
given refuge to Fenian enthusiasts, after the abortive out- 
break of 1867; one of his sisters had written for the Fenian 
Press ; he had spoken of the executions at Manchester as 
of inhuman murders. He had, however, begun life as a 
simple country gentleman, intelligent, indeed, and with 
active pursuits, but not, apparently, differing from his fellows 
of the class ; and it is not probable, when he entered 
Parliament, that he had extreme political views, though he 
had taken the ordinary Home Rule pledge. But Parnell, 
though not a well-informed man, and without the wisdom 
and genius of a real statesman, was not the less a born party 
leader ; he was ambitious, but calculating, calm, stern, and 
resolute ; inscrutable, but endowed with the greatest strength 
of character ; and if absolutely without scruple, and 
capable of audacious deception, admirably fitted for 
Parliamentary arts and intrigues, and able to direct con- 
stitutional and revolutionary movements alike. He was to 
be the Achitophel of the House of Commons of his time, 
far superior " in close designs and crooked counsels " to the 
ministers and politicians he hoodwinked and outwitted. 

Parnell quickly became the leader of the knot of Irishmen 
who had betaken themselves to stopping the work of 
Parliament. The devices of some of these men were 
clumsy and stupid, for example, one protested against the 
presence of the Prince of Wales, in a place reserved for 
''strangers" in the House of Commons, and wrangled on 
the subject at indecorous length ; others wasted hours on 
reading Blue Books and making speeches with the obvious 
purpose of causing mere delay. But Parnell chose his 
ground well, and gave proof of real dexterity ; he carried 
a few Radical members with him, although he would speak 
at interminable length on flogging in the Army and prison 
discipline ; in a word he selected popular topics when he 
resolved to make waste of the public time ; and more 
than once he tripped up the Leader of the House of 
Commons, owing to the knowledge he had acquired of the 


practice and laws of Parliament. He effectually baffled the 
Government on several occasions ; and though, with his 
followers, he was sometimes overcome by the unseemly 
expedient of prolonged night sittings, his pertinacity, his 
adroitness, his skill in saying things of the most offensive 
kind, in cool and measured language, made him a prominent 
personage in an assembly which has always recognised 
ability and real power. He gradually supplanted his 
nominal leader, who had protested against his conduct in 
the House of Commons ; he became the acknowledged 
chief of an Irish party in Parliament, increasing in strength 
and numbers Session after Session, which aimed at further- 
ing what it called " an active policy," that is at wringing 
concessions for Ireland, nay, even Home Rule, from a 
Legislature wearied out by obstruction. 1 Parnell, while 
thus already placed at the head of what seemed to 
be a constitutional movement, maintained simultaneously 
close relations with Fenians and " men of 1867 " in 
Ireland; even then we see signs of the ambidextrous 
policy he developed afterwards with signal success. 2 He 
acquired popularity and a kind of renown in Ireland ; by 
the close of 1878 he had completely thrust aside Butt, whose 
failure in politics had become manifest, and who was 
rapidly approaching his end. The fate of the " Father of 
Home Rule" was presaged by a significant act on the part 
of the Home Rule League of England, almost wholly 
composed of disaffected Irishmen ; it deposed Butt as 
its President, and put Parnell in his stead. 

Lord Beaconsfield's Ministry had, meanwhile, carried ' 
into effect some Irish measures ; as far as they went these 
were well designed, though much less ambitious than those 
of Mr. Gladstone. After the defeat of the Education Bill 
of 1873, an Act was framed, at the instance of Trinity 

1 Times had changed since Greville wrote thus of Irish obstructions 
(" Memoirs," vol. vii. p. 165) : " The English abhor the Irish and their 
proceedings, and will never endure that the House of Commons 
shall be dictated to by Irish Repealers and agitators." 

2 See " The Parnell Movement," by T. P. O'Connor, M.P., p. 169. 

230 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

College, which made its members eligible to all its honours, 
without regard to differences of creed, and deprived its 
governing body of its purely Protestant character ; this 
was highly to the credit of a noble foundation ; but the 
reform, liberal and wise as it was, could not transform the 
place ; Trinity College is still a Protestant seat of learning 
in teaching and spirit. Not long afterwards another step 
was taken, if not a bold and decided step, in making the 
System of high education in Ireland less unfair and 
one-sided than it had been ; the Queen's University was 
abolished ; a Royal University was established, empowered 
to confer degrees on the students of all Irish Colleges, who 
passed through the examinations required for the purpose. 
The Catholic University and other institutions of the kind 
were thus enabled, though indirectly, to secure degrees 
for those who were educated within their precincts ; but the 
Royal University is a mere Examining Board, it is not a 
University in a proper sense ; the Catholic University 
remains unendowed, while Trinity Colleges and the Queen's 
Colleges possess ample endowments and wealth ; Catholic 
Ireland, we repeat, has here a real grievance. Another 
measure of the Beaconsfield Government, in the interest 
of Irish Education, may be also noticed. The secondary 
schools of Ireland have never ranked high, for Ireland 
has never had a great middle class ; and until this 
century most of these schools were exclusively confined 
to the ruling Protestant caste, as many, indeed, are to 
this day. Since the Union, however, a number of Catholic 
schools of this description have been founded, another 
striking instance of the remarkable progress made by 
Catholic Ireland in social and intellectual life from 1800 
to the present time. Few of these schools, nevertheless, 
of either communion, have flourished as much as was to 
be desired ; a considerable impulse was given to them by 
an Act, due to the inspiration of Lord Cairns, the Lord 
Chancellor of England under Lord Beaconsfield, and 
himself an Irishman of remarkable parts, and a splendid 
luminary of the English Bar. A system of Intermediate 


Education was set up by this law in 1878, in Ireland ; and 
the students of both sexes in secondary schools have been 
encouraged to take advantage of it, through the attraction 
of prizes and other awards. The success of the experiment 
has been great ; but the secondary schools of Ireland, like 
her public schools, are still comparatively in a backward 

The surface of things, meanwhile, had become fair in 
Ireland, since the Fenian conspiracy had collapsed, 
and agrarian disorder had been put down. The country, 
on the whole, has never been so prosperous as it was in the 
years of plenty and high prices from 1 871 to 1877. Agricul- 
ture and all that pertained to it continued distinctly to 
improve ; the wealth and the commerce of Ireland increased ; 
the condition of the peasantry was better than it had ever 
been ; the value of land preceptibly rose ; tranquillity 
appeared to be completely restored. Even the Home Rule 
movement seemed on the decline ; political agitation 
became very feeble ; Butt and his adherents found few to 
attend the rare public meetings they now and then addressed. 
British statesmen began once more to believe that Ireland 
was in a state of permanent repose ; this was notably a 
conviction of Mr. Gladstone, who often dwelt on the good 
effects of his " Irish policy," especially as to the land system, 
and, with self-satisfaction that appeared justified, announced 
that the Irish community was " contented and happy." Yet 
here again, as in the years before the Fenian outbreak, these 
symptoms of progress and welfare were in part deceptive ; 
and the optimism of the hour was, in many respects, a- 
delusion. The prosperity and quiet of Ireland depended, 
as before, on the chances of good harvests and rising prices ; 
in her social structure and its relations there was still much 
that was peccant, and this was not improbably on the 
increase. Rents were being raised, perhaps abnormally 
fast, though this was the exception, not the rule ; the Land 
Act had indisputably done good ; but it did not satisfy a 
class that had already acquired socialistic ideas about the 
land ; it was not felt to be the benefit it really was ; and, as 

232 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

had been foreseen, it had been evaded in not a few instances, 
and in some through illegitimate conduct on the part of 
landlords. All this produced irritation and alarm, if as yet 
not sufficient to cause much attention ; but elements of 
danger and disturbance were gathering slowly ; and well- 
informed observers of this time predicted that there would yet 
be a movement against rent in Ireland, especially as the 
peasantry, in this prosperous season, had lived rather fast 
and become involved in debt. Meanwhile the Fenian 
organisation in the United States, though not active, had 
not been broken up ; though scotched, it was not killed in 
Great Britain and Ireland ; and its emissaries continued to 
spread its doctrines against British rule and Irish landlords 
from Cape Clear to the Giant's Causeway. A young 
generation, too, of Irish priests had grown up which looked 
back at the agitation of the past, and was secretly opposed to 
Cardinal Cullen ; and though it was kept down by the 
superior clergy, it formed an element that might become 
perilous. On the whole the face of things in Ireland was 
serene ; but treacherous mischief and trouble lurked 
beneath ; and Mr. Gladstone and others were ere long to 
be undeceived. 

The period, of which we have traced the main features, is 
one of great, nay, of mournful interest, in the affairs of 
Ireland. It opened with the promise of an auspicious era ; 
it closed with a condition of things still in appearance 
hopeful, but really critical, and soon to become unfortunate. 
The reforms of Mr. Gladstone were great and far-reaching, 
and certainly were not without good results ; but his Irish 
Church Act was hardly a wise measure, and was marked by 
one capital defect at least ; his Land Act was very far from 
perfect ; his Education Bill was a sorry failure ; and, as too 
often has been unhappily the case in Ireland, his legislation 
was too late to produce much effect. The Home Rule 
movement grew out of the shock caused by the violent 
subversion of the Established Church in Ireland ; it was 
a Constitutional movement in its author's design ; but it 
was an ill-planned and injudicious movement ; and though 


at this period not really strong, it drew into it bad and 
dangerous forces, destined, in the near future, to cause 
immense evils. Home Rule, even as it was proposed by 
Butt, and the agrarian disorder which prevailed in Ireland 
from 1869 to 1 87 1, changed British sympathy with Irishmen 
into estrangement ; this change, unhappily often seen before, 
became very evident at the close of this period ; it has, with 
some seasons of intermission, continued ever since ; and 
this probably will always be the case — a fact Irishmen might 
well lay to heart — when attempts are seriously made to assail 
the Union, however dexterously these may be masked, or 
with whatever authority they may be presented. For the 
rest Ireland appeared prosperous and tranquil in 1876-7 ; 
but there was much in her condition that portended evil, to 
those who could read the signs of the time ; the great 
majority of her rulers, imperfectly, as usual, informed of her 
affairs, and, at this juncture, giving their whole attention to 
the difficult and menacing situation in the East, were soon 
to learn not to boast themselves of the morrow, and to find 
in the words of the old saying that " a cat in a closet might 
do more harm than a lion in a plain." 



Death of Butt — Michael Dayitt — He arranges the "New Departure" 
with Fenians in America — Essential character of this movement — 
Davitt founds the Land League — Parnell its head and master-spirit 
— Nature and objects of the League — Distress in Ireland at the end 
of 1879 — Conduct of Irish landlords — Parnell's visit to America — 
The General Election of 1880 — Progress of the Land League — The 
Compensation for Disturbance Bill rejected by the House of Lords 
— Outburst of crime and anarchy in Ireland — This continues for 
many months, and only increases — An unwise measure of repression 
— The Land Act of 1881 — Its characteristics and vices — Attitude of 
the Land League leaders — Arrest of Parnell and others — The No 
Rent manifesto — Increase of disorder — The Kilmainham Treaty — 
The Phoenix Park murders — Indignation in England — Severe Coer- 
cion Act, resisted by Parnell and his followers — Punishment of 
crime — Disorder put down — The National League founded — The 
Administration of the Land Act of 1881 — Artful policy of Parnell — 
Connection between the National League and the party of violence 
in America — Parnell and his party in opposition to Mr. Gladstone 
— The Reform Act of 1884 — Fall of Mr. Gladstone's Government. 

After a feeble attempt to regain authority over the party of 
which he had been the head, Butt passed silently away in the 
spring of 1879. Like that of O'Connell, his end was mourn- 
ful ; in some respects it was even more tragic. He lived to 
hear the first sounds of distress from his country, which had 
been heard for a considerable time, though very different 
from the loud wail of 1845-7 > ms policy had been wrecked, 
his hopes destroyed ; but, unlike O'Connell, he had been 

completely forsaken ; scarcely a voice was raised to say 



" God bless him," in death ; and he never had influence 
over the Irish masses. Nevertheless Butt was a great Irish- 
man ; had he had strength of character to sustain his intel- 
lect, he would have held a high place in Irish History. He 
was the last of the Irish popular leaders, who, while seeking 
to change the Union, sincerely wished to maintain the 
British connection ; had reverence for British order and 
law ; and only aimed at Constitutional reforms by Constitu- 
tional methods. Those who were to follow him — Parnell 
was easily supreme — were men of whom some certainly 
sought to separate Ireland from Great Britain, without 
regard to the inevitable results ; and many of whom 
laboured to produce a revolution of the very worst kind, 
political and social alike, by revolutionary and detestable 
deeds, and by dragging Ireland through a sea of trouble and 
anarchy. Butt and O'Connell had much in common ; these 
men resembled the United Irishmen of 1795-8, without their 
patriotism, or a real excuse for their conduct. 

Meanwhile, in a sky as yet comparatively serene, a little 
cloud had been growing up in the West, which, "no bigger" 
at first, than "a man's hand," was to spread in a destructive 
storm over the Irish landscape. Michael Davitt was a son of 
a Mayo peasant, who had been harshly evicted after the 
famine, and had found a home in a little town of Lanca- 
shire. The boy was brought up in the hatred of Irish 
landlords, common to the multitudes of the great Exodus ; 
he had the quick and vehement mind of the Celt ; and 
having been doomed by an accident to a sedentary life, he 
picked up in his studies a good deal of revolutionary and 
socialistic knowledge. He became prominent among the 
Fenian recruits ; took part in the abortive raid at Chester ; 
and soon afterwards was convicted of a grave offence against 
the State. During a long confinement in penal servitude, 
he brooded continually on his " country's wrongs " ; and true 
to the faith of Finton Lalor, which possibly he had learned 
in his teens, he became convinced that the " national cause " 
must be associated " with the cause of the land," if anything 
effectual was to be done, that British rule in Ireland could 

236 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

only be shaken by means of an attack on the landed gentry. 
He was released from Dartmoor in the last days of 1877, and 
with other Fenian prisoners of the same type, was welcomed 
by a deputation in Dublin, of which Parnell — as we have 
seen, he was not unacquainted with "men of 1867" — appears 
to have been the leading spirit. 1 Davitt was soon in com- 
munication with the Fenian Societies, which still continued 
to exist in the Three Kingdoms, though their organisation 
had become very weak, and their counsels were more than 
ever kept in the dark ; he perhaps expounded to these the 
new plan of operations he had thought out when in prison ; 
and proposed that an effort should be made to subvert " Irish 
landlordism," as a prelude to " national liberty." The Fenian 
Societies, however — they still retained the name of the 
" Brotherhood of the Irish Republic " given by Stephens — 
did not generally respond to his overtures ; they were, as 
usual, divided by the quarrels of the Celt; and the memories 
of 1867 were, besides, recent. 2 Davitt had ere long set off 
for the United States, and, after considerable delay and many 
disappointments, he found on that soil leavened with Irish 
rebellion the means of preparing the way, at least, for a far- 
spreading and destructive movement, in its accompaniments 
and its full development the most formidable against British 
power in Ireland which has been witnessed since 1798. 

The Fenian conspiracy still retained life, when Davitt 
reached America in 1878 ; it had its organised bodies and 
was not inactive ; but it was split up into discordant 
factions, as was the case on the - opposite side of the 
Atlantic. These parties may be divided broadly into two : 
one generally known as that of the "Clan na Gael," the 
other bearing a variety of names, of which the " Irish 
Brotherhood " was the most conspicuous. The leaders 
of both factions had a common purpose : " the complete 

1 Two, perhaps three, members of this deputation were afterwards 
implicated, more or less, in the Phoenix Park murders. "The Continuity 
of the Irish Revolutionary Movement," by Brougham Leech, p. 13. 

2 Evidence of Special Commission and Report, vol iii. pp. 557-586 ; 
vol. iv. p. 188; vol. iv. pp. 479-80. 


severance of Ireland from England" was "their main 
object" x ; but they were not wholly agreed on the means ; 
and the dissensions between them had been fierce and bitter. 
The chiefs of the Clan na Gael, like Moloch in the infernal 
conclave, were for " open war " with the " enemy of their 
race " ; but, taught by the failure of 1865-7, they had 
confined their efforts to the creation of a " Skirmishing 
Fund," for assassination and the use of dynamite ; and this 
had hitherto had no results. The heads of the other fol- 
lowing were more akin to Beelzebub ; they abhorred 
England, but "were for some easier enterprise" ; nor 
did the promise of this seem altogether hopeless. They 
had been struck by the power shown by Parnell and the 
"active party" in obstructing and baffling the House of 
Commons ; they knew that socialistic ideas were abroad in 
Ireland, especially in all that related to the land ; they had 
heard rumours of Irish distress ; in these elements of mischief 
they believed some combination might be effected that would 
do the " tyrant Saxon " permanent harm. Davitt attached 
himself, from the first, to these men ; he devoted months to 
travelling through the United States, delivering lectures and 
making speeches, in which he unfolded the scheme he had 
formed ; and gradually he made so marked an impression 
that the leaders of the conspirators in both camps, agreed 
that his experiment was worth a trial, and that England 
might be assailed with success, by " dragging," as Finton 
Lalor had written " Irish independence " after an agrarian 
revolt, as "you drag" an inert mass after a quickly moving 
engine. Davitt and the American Fenians of all kinds made 
what may be called a regular compact ; the negotiator was 
a notable member of the Clan na Gael, deep in the counsels 
of Stephens many years before, and lately a trustee of " the 
Skirmishing Fund " ; and the new policy was to be carried 
out in the "New Departure." The independence of Ireland 
was, as always, to be the grand object; but Irish "land- 
lordism" was to be the first point of attack ; "the recovery 

1 Report of the Judges on the Special Commission of 1888, vol. iv. p. 

238 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

of Ireland's national independence and the severance of all 
political connection with England " was to be the end ; but 
one of the means was to be " a radical reform of the land 
system, ... a system founded' on robbery and fraud and 
perpetuated by cruelty, injustice, extortion, and hatred of the 
people." x As the movement, however, unlike other Fenian 
movements, was necessarily to be conducted in the face 
of the day, the innocent phrases of " self government " and 
" peasant proprietary," were to be employed in order to 
mask the real purpose. Davitt was to inaugurate the "New 
Departure " ; but it is significant of what was at bottom 
meant, that the negotiator went to Ireland at the same time 
to distribute arms among the remains of the old Fenian 
levies. 2 

The movement thus skilfully set on foot, had, it will be 
perceived, a double aspect. It was treasonable in its chief 
purpose, the separation of Ireland from Great Britain ; it 
was socialistic in its designs against the land; but it screened 
itself behind Constitutional forms ; it had a Constitutional 
motto, as it were, on its flag ; and this was to be its essential 
nature from first to last. The campaign was opened in 
Davitt's birthplace, Mayo ; a great meeting assembled at a 
place called Irishtown, in the early spring of 1879 ; Davitt, 
owing to an accident, was not present ; but an assault on 
" Irish landlordism " was made in vehement language, 
occasionally breaking out in extreme sedition, several of the 
speakers being well-known Fenians. Other meetings of the 
same kind were convened ; but Davitt, though an earnest, nay 
an able man, was not fit to lead an Irish agrarian crusade ; 
he had ideas about " the nationalising " of the land, which 
the Irish occupier of the soil abhorred ; and very probably 
the movement would have failed in his hands, as the Fenians 
had failed to arouse the peasantry in 1865-7, had he not 
sought the aid of a very different personage. Parnell by 

1 Letter of John Devoy to the Freeman's Journal cited in " The Con- 
tinuity of the Irish Revolutionary Movement," pp. 14, 15. 

2 Report of the Judges on the Special Commission, vol. iv. p. 481. 
He did not go in the same ship as Davitt. 


this time was the undisputed head of the " active Irish 
Party" in the House of Commons, though many of Butt's 
old followers disliked his methods ; he knew that there was 
already distress in Ireland ; he may have had philanthropic 
views ; but he was certainly aware that the time was becom- 
ing ripe for making an attack on the land system. What 
passed between him and Davitt has not transpired ; but 
probably a plan of action was formed ; and at a meeting 
held at Westport in June 1879, Parnell, amidst moderate 
and even philosophic phrases, called on his hearers " to 
hold a firm grip on their homesteads and lands/' 1 the 
creed of Finton Lalor and the extreme "men of 1848." A 
few months afterwards, a great Central Land League was 
founded in Dublin with country branches ; this was to 
carry into effect the new movement, and to disseminate 
its influence throughout Ireland ; Parnell was elected its 
president with general acclaim. The professed objects of 
the League were reasonable and fair, "to bring about the 
reduction of rack-rents " and " to facilitate the acquiring 
of the ownership of the soil" 2 by h$ occupants ; but this was 
partly because Parnell feared that an organisation of the 
kind would be perilous, if not avowedly kept within the 
limits of the law ; and partly because it would be good 
policy to attract to it timid and faint-hearted men. 3 The 
real objects of the "League, Davitt boasted afterwards, was 
" the complete destruction of Irish landlordism . . . because 
landlordism was a British garrison, which barred the way 
to national independence ;" 4 and a pregnant confirmation 
of this view — "of the seven first chosen officers of the 
League, four were, or had been," notorious Fenians.5 

Distress, meanwhile, had been making progress in Ireland, 
and quickening, as the great Greek historian has said, the 
animosities, which spring from divided classes. The pros- 
perity of Ireland ceased in 1877 ; the harvest of 1878 was 
not good ; that of 1879 was the worst seen since the Great 
Famine. The loss to a country always comparatively poor, 

1 Report of the Judges as ante, vol. iv. p. 483. 2 Ibiql., vol. iv. p. 484. 
3 Ibid., vol. iv. p. 485. 4 Ibid., vol. iv. p. 485. 5 Ibid., vol. iv. p. 485. 

240 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

was not less than -£10,000,000 sterling ; this necessarily 
disturbed all social relations, especially those of the land 
system. The peasantry, we have said, were largely in 
debt, as a class ; banks and traders had everywhere made 
advances on the security given by the Act of 1870 ; and 
now when a really hard time had come, there was a 
universal calling in of demands of this kind, and many 
farmers were suddenly involved in bankruptcy. It is 
certainly to be regretted, though hundreds did, that the 
landlords, as a rule, did not make the reductions of rent 
the occasion required ; yet it is not easy to find fault 
with them. Rents had, doubtless, been rising in Ireland 
of late years ; in not a few instances they had become 
excessive ; but Ireland, as a whole, was not an overrented 
land, whatever mere faction has since asserted ; this was 
conclusively proved by the unimpeachable Report of a 
Commission appointed to make the inquiry. 1 It must be 
remembered, too, that, at this very time, the doctrines of 
the Land League had been announced ; the annihilation 
of " landlordism " had been preached with extravagant 
vehemence at county meetings ; the landed gentry had been 
insulted and bearded ; besides, they had been assured by 
Mr. Gladstone that if the Land Act had taken something 
from them, it made their position perfectly safe ; and it 
must be added that, in five-sixths of Ireland, they were 
separated from their dependents in race and faith, a sepa- 
ration, which probably had become more wide. They 
are hardly, therefore, in justice to be condemned ; but 
the circumstance that, as a class, they claimed their full 
rents, in the actual state of affairs, must be deemed unfor- 
tunate. Their conduct irritated hundreds of tenant farmers ; 
strengthened the socialistic ideas, which, we have seen, 
were already current about the land, and gave additional 
force to the new agrarian movement — though this as yet 
was relatively weak, and did not extend beyond two or 
three counties — and moreover, to the Land League's real 

1 See the Report of the Bessborough Commission of 1880, vol. i. p. 3. 
It is emphatic on the subject. 


purpose. Injudicious, however, as many of the landed 
gentry were, the disorder that before long followed the 
evictions to which they were driven to assert their rights, 
is not fairly to be laid to their charge. It was the move- 
ment set on foot by Davitt and Parnell that, beyond 
question, provoked these evictions ; not the evictions 
which, as has been falsely said, called the Land League, 
so to speak, into the field, as the defender of an oppressed 
peasantry. 1 

In the last weeks of 1879, the distress in Ireland, though 
not widespread, became severe in its ordinary seats, Con- 
naught, and the south-western parts of Munster. The 
Government of Lord Beaconsfield met the crisis by the 
advance of funds taken from the Church surplus, and to 
be laid out, through landlords, on reproductive works, 
an improvement certainly on the Labour Rate Acts of 
1845-6 ; and Relief Committees distributed large sums in 
charity. The occasion was skilfully seized by Parnell ; 
the agrarian movement, as indeed was always the case, 
had received hardly any support, in money, in Ireland, 
and hitherto had been chiefly sustained from "The Skir- 
mishing Fund"; 2 but the supplies to the Land League 
might now be expected to increase, and an appeal on behalf 
of the cause in America might prove successful. Parnell 
sailed for the United States, as the year was closing ; he was 
accompanied by two lieutenants of promise, who have since 
made a name for themselves in Parliament ; a singular 
conversation took place on the voyage, which strikingly 
illustrates the general course of his policy. He remarked, 
among other commonplace things, " that a true revolu- 
tionary movement in Ireland should partake of a Consti- 
tutional and illegal character," should "use the Constitution 
for its own purposes, but should take advantage of its 
secret combination "; 3 it is impossible not to see how 

1 See particularly, on this point, the Report of the Judges, vol. iv. 
pp. 524-5. 

2 Report of the Judges, vol. iv. p. 484. 

3 Ibid., vol. iv. p. 486. The Judges declined to accept Parncll's 


242 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

this fits in with the "New Departure" arranged with Davitt, 
and which Parnell was designed, we may say by nature, to 
promote. The leader of the " active party " in Parliament, 
and the recognised head of the Irish Land League received 
a hearty welcome from many sorts and conditions of men, 
after he had landed on the quays of New York. The elec- 
tion of a President was at hand ; it was necessary to gain 
the Irish vote ; the name of Stewart and his exploits were 
not forgotten ; and Parnell was permitted to explain his 
views on Ireland — this he did with his accustomed modera- 
tion of tone — before the House of the Representatives of 
the United States. He associated also with politicians of 
mark ; but his relations were most frequent with prominent 
men of the Fenian parties of every hue and shade. He 
mixed freely with leaders of the Clan na Gael, though 
possibly he was unaware of their extreme views ; x became 
acquainted with a writer on the Irish World, an in- 
cendiary print of the most execrable kind ; made com- 
panions of Fenians of many degrees ; attended public 
meetings at which he now and then let slip plain treason 
through a veil of calm and measured language ; in a word, 
impressed the American Irish, wherever he went, with a 
sense of his capacity to direct a revolutionary cause. At 
one of these meetings he openly declared that " none of us, 
whether we are in America, or in Ireland, or wherever we 
may be, will be satisfied until we have destroyed the last link 
which keeps Ireland bound to England. 2 

Parnell's mission to the United States was successful ; he 
gave an additional impulse to the "Irish cause"; he founded 
a Central " Land League of America," analogous to the 
Central League of Ireland ; he received considerable sums 
of money for the purposes of the " New Departure." 3 The 

* Report of the Judges, vol. iv. p. 487. 

2 Report of the Judges, vol. iv. p. 488. The Judges declined to 
believe Parnell's denial of these words. He made several speeches at 
this time ; we shall note several of these ; this cool and crafty politician 
never hesitated to use language that might serve his purpose. 

3 One of the contributors to this fund remarked : " Parnell, there are 


work of the Irish Land League was, in his absence, carried 
on by subordinates, in the fashion already set ; violent 
speeches were made against landlords at public meetings, 
and significant hints were dropped as regards the use of 
fire-arms ; but the methods of the League, though being 
arranged, were not brought to a state of perfection ; and its 
power, if increasing, was not as yet great. Lord Beacons- 
field, indeed, was the only British statesman who clearly 
perceived, at this time, the ends of the movement ; his 
name is not associated with any great Irish reform ; but, 
from his youth upwards, he understood Ireland much better 
than his eminent rival ; and when he dissolved Parliament, 
in the first months of 1880, he declared, in an address, 
which has become historical, that " an attempt scarcely less 
dangerous than pestilence and famine," was being made to 
" sever the Constitutional tie " between Great Britain and 
the lesser island. This manifesto was covered with ridicule 
when it appeared, by none more boldly than by Mr. Glad- 
stone, who claimed that the Liberal party was the mainstay 
of the Union ; but the truth has since been made only too 
evident, and it was unfortunate for England and Ireland 
alike, that the great Imperialist and Conservative statesman 
was driven from power at the General Election of 1880. 
In view of that event Parnell returned to Ireland; 1 he 
fought for the leadership of the Home Rule party with 
great determination, energy, and skill ; and though even 
then he was not its official head, he won many seats for 
followers — several of these were men of revolutionary and_ 
socialistic views — who clung to him as faithfully as the 
" Tail " adhered to O'Connell ; and he soon gained the 
supremacy to which he aspired. By this time Mr. Glad- 
stone had become Prime Minister ; he indulged, for a 

twenty-five dollars, five for bread and twenty for lead," an observation 
enthusiastically cheered at a Land League meeting. Report of the 
Judges, vol. iv. p. 490. 

1 On Parnell's return, one of his Parliamentary colleagues made the 
well known " Hartmann Speech " hinting at the occasional expediency 
of political assassination. Report of the Judges, vol. iv. p. 488. 

244 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

while, in the optimistic fancies he had cherished respect- 
ing Irish affairs ; he had no thought about Irish reforms ; 
he would not even renew an Act controlling the use of 
arms in Ireland, notwithstanding the Land League speeches 
before referred to. By degrees, however, as the agitation in 
Ireland increased, and Parnell and his satellites in the 
House of Commons dwelt on the tale of evictions becom- 
ing, no doubt, more frequent, but exaggerated in number 
to an immense extent, 1 the Minister, as it were, awoke from 
his deceptive dream ; he introduced a measure for the 
amendment of the Land Act of 1870, which, seconded by a 
Commission charged to report on the state of the Irish land 
system, and landed relations, would, he thought, suffice to 
set existing troubles at rest. 

A word or two must be said on this project, for though 
in itself of no great importance, it had a marked influence, 
in the result, on Irish affairs. The Tenant Right of the occu- 
pier of the soil in Ireland was, we have seen, under the 
existing law, to be realised only when he was being removed 
from his holding by a hostile act of the landlord. " Com- 
pensation for Disturbance," by the Act of 1870, was only to 
be paid when he was being dispossessed by a notice to quit. 
He was not, except in a very few cases, to obtain this com- 
pensation and to have his Tenant Right when he was being 
removed for not paying his rent — that is, presumably, for his 
own default. From this it followed that, as in 1847-50 
the Tenant Right of Ulster was greatly imperilled by the 
pressure of arrears of rent on the tenant's peculium, so, at 
this conjuncture, the potential Tenant Right conferred by 
the Act of 1870 — that is, the compensation when a tenant 
was disturbed — was being destroyed, in perhaps not a few 
instances, by the failure of tenants to pay rents, which they 
could not pay in a season of distress. The rights, therefore, 
of the occupiers of the Irish soil were being confiscated, 

1 The method of falsification, unscrupulously adopted, was to repre- 
sent ejectment decrees obtained in the courts as identical with actual 
evictions. Mr. Gladstone seems to have accepted this misstatement; 
but probably there were twenty decrees to one eviction . 


from an equitable point of view, as evictions, even for not 
paying rent in a hard time, increased. The Bill of Mr. 
Gladstone proposed a remedy for this state of things. In 
certain classes of cases, carefully limited, and subject to 
many precautions and even restrictions, the Irish tenant 
might retain his Tenant Right, and Compensation for 
Disturbance might be advanced to him though he had 
been in default and had not paid his rent ; and though 
this legislation was, no doubt, startling, was contrary to 
the spirit of the Act of 1870, and was open to very grave 
objections, it was, as affairs stood, to be perhaps justified. 
The measure was vindicated by Lord Hartington x with 
characteristic sound sense and judgment. It passed the 
House of Commons, though with large amendments, and 
rather against that assembly's will ; but it was summarily 
rejected by the House of Lords — a decision that must be 
pronounced unfortunate in this as in other passages of the 
affairs of Ireland. 

The "Compensation for Disturbance" Bill, as it was 
called, was treated by Parnell and his party with contempt ; 
they asserted that it was a mere useless sham. 2 Very pro- 
bably, circumscribed as it was, it would not have applied to 
many Irish tenants. But the rejection of the measure gave 
these men a favourable opportunity to go on with their 
work ; it enabled them to denounce British rule in Ireland 
and its garrison of landlords, with a show of plausibility, to 
masses of ignorant peasants.3 The Land League meetings 
suddenly multiplied ; the language of the speakers became 
more treasonable and ferocious than it had ever been. To 
find anything like it we must turn to the pages of Marat, or 
to the frenzy of Jacobinism during the Reign of Terror.4 

1 The present Duke of Devonshire, a great landlord in Ireland. The 
speeches of the Irish Attorney-General, Law, were also very able. 

2 Evidence of the Special Commission of 1888, vol. iv. p. 272. 

4 These speeches, and scores of others of the same kind, will be found 
in the Evidence of the Special Commission. I select two, by no means 
the worst, extracts. It will be observed how they correspond to the 
Fenian denunciations of 1865-70. Mr. M. Harris, afterwards, M.P., 

246 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

Through these wicked incentives the power of the League 
increased ; its branches spread over six or seven counties, 
extending gradually into Leinster from the west. The 
agrarian movement became more intense, though distress 
had lessened in a marked degree x and evictions were fewer 
than they had been for months. The plan of operations of 
what simply was a huge conspiracy against the State had 
been formed before, but deliberation and money had been 
required to mature it ; and as a year had passed since the 
first meeting in Mayo, and contributions from America had 
largely flowed in, the preparations were by this time com- 
plete. The methods of the League to strike " landlordism " 
down had a kind of resemblance to those of English Trades 
Unions, though essentially they were altogether different. 
This certainly was of set purpose, for Parnell usually 
endeavoured, as far as was possible, not to come in too 
rude conflict with English opinion. In districts where the 
agrarian movement prevailed landlords were to be com- 
pelled to accept rents, sometimes on terms dictated by the 
local League, sometimes at the valuation on which rates 
were assessed, always at a reduction grossly excessive ; they 
were to be terrorised and banned if they ventured to refuse. 
Landlords, however, obviously might resist ; if they had the 
temerity to appeal to the law, and to dispossess tenants who 
would only pay the sums fixed by the League's mandates, 
the evicted lands were to be left derelict, and all persons 
who should dare to occupy these, as well as tenants who 
should pay rents higher than those of the League's esti- 
mate were to be ostracised by the whole adjoining neigh- 
bourhood. " You must put " a wretch of this stamp — so 

said : " If the tenant farmers of Ireland shoot down landlords as 
partridges are shot in the month of September, Mat Harris would never 
say a word against them." Joe Brennan, a leading official of the 
League, exclaimed : " The compensation Irish landlords would be 
entitled to would be a prison or a rope, for having robbed or mur- 
dered the Irish people." Multiply sentences like these by hundreds, 
and the reader can form an idea of what these utterances were. As 
for treasonable expressions, they were simply passim. 
1 Report of the Judges, vol. iv. pp. 524-5 ante. 


Parnell laid down the law — " into a kind of moral Coventry, 
by isolating him from his kind, as if he were a leper of old ; 
you must show him your detestation of the crime he has 
committed ; " l so that when lands were smitten by this 
barbarous interdict, the power of the landlord would be 
wholly paralysed, and his property could be niched away 
from him. It is difficult to suppose that a man so able 
as Parnell did not see that what he described as " an 
unwritten law " like this would inevitably lead to a 
frightful social war, and to crime and disorder of every 
kind ; but as to results he never had a scruple, provided 
he perceived how to accomplish his ends. 2 

The operations of the Land League were in full swing 
in the last months of 1880 and in the beginning of 1881. 
The conspiracy disclosed itself in what was aptly called the 
Land War, which, conducted by the central organisation 
and its dependent members, had extended over nearly a 
third part of Ireland. The plan that had been laid down 
was systematically carried out ; landlords were offered the 
rents adjudged to be "fair" by the League on the spot, 
and if they declined they were denounced by name and 
held up to execration at village or country meetings, or were 
burned in effigy by howling mobs, or ostracised by the 
League's commands, while their demesnes were repeatedly 
ravaged by " Land League hunts " — savage gatherings of the 
scum of the neighbourhood. The peasantry were at the 
same time enjoined to pay only what the League ordered. 
Specious promises were held out to them : they would get , 
their farms for nothing, or at "prairie rents," if they only 
kept together and were true to Parnell ; but if they dis- 
obeyed they knew what they had to expect. In many 

1 For an account of the methods of the Land League, see the 
Report of the Judges, vol. iv. pp. 495-506. I refer only to the ostensible 
methods avowed and inculcated. 

2 The only observation Parnell made on a frightful murder which had 
been committed for contravening the dictates of the League was : 
" Recourse to such measures of procedure is entirely unnecessary, and 
absolutely prejudicial, when there is a suitable organisation among the 
tenants themselves." 

248 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

instances the landed gentry yielded, isolated in the midst 
of a population in revolt ; in many the occupiers of the 
soil, already swayed by socialistic ideas about the land, 
succumbed to artful temptations or infamous threats; and 
in a few districts the League had a complete triumph. This 
submission, however, was not general, or even often seen. 
Many landlords insisted on their rights, and enforced the 
law ; many tenants paid their rents honestly or through fear 
of eviction. The efforts of the conspiracy were then com- 
bined to take vengeance on the transgressors of its will. 
The odious practice of " boycotting," which, we have seen, 
had been first heard of in the great Tithe War, was not 
made as perfect as it became afterwards ; but it was carried 
out with ruthless and far-reaching cruelty against those of 
all classes who violated the " unwritten law " of the League. 
Domestics of the landed gentry were driven from their 
masters' houses ; ladies were often compelled to seek the 
necessaries of life by night, and stealthily, as they could best 
procure them ; scores of families fled the country in despair. 
The penalties of the League, however, fell far more heavily, 
and 'in instances, by many degrees more frequent, on those 
of the humbler classes who dared to cross its purpose. The 
courageous or the terrified tenant who had committed the 
offence of paying what he had agreed to pay, the " grabber " 
who had put his foot on an evicted farm, the weak trader 
who dealt with an " obnoxious " person, were " boycotted," 
literally sometimes to death ; they were refused food, shelter, 
medicine, even Christian burial ; they were proscribed by 
a potent and tyrannous Vehmright, which worked not so 
much by bloodshed as by social terror. Such a system 
persistently and wickedly enforced could have but one 
end — a war of classes and an outbreak of crime. " Boy 
cotting," however widespread and barbarous, was, after all, 
but a passive thing. It was " a law," Mr. Gladstone truly 
said, " that required a sanction " ; and " the sanction of boy 
cotting was the assassination " that lay behind it. During 
this period and that which ere long followed Ireland 
witnessed the worst outburst of crime which had been 


witnessed since the struggle of 1831-34. Victims among 
the upper classes were done to death ; but these deeds 
were as nothing compared to the atrocious cruelties per- 
petrated on the peasantry condemned by the League to 
its ruthless punishments. This was the distinctive feature, 
indeed, of the crisis. 1 For one landlord, agent, or bailiff 
who was shot or attacked at least a hundred " grabbers " 
or " traitors " were brutally treated ; their houses were 
often entered by bands of ruffians, significantly known as 
" Moonlighters " and " Parnell's Police " ; they were some- 
times murdered, often shot in the legs ; the hair of their 
women was repeatedly cut off ; their cattle were horribly 
mutilated in hundreds of cases. The Central Land League 
appears to have had no direct relations with the old agrarian 
secret and Ribbon societies, but the local Leagues in all 
probability had. These, like Aaron's rod, swallowed up 
the less powerful bodies, and made use of them in their 
saturnalia of crime. 

By the spring of 1881 the League had established a kind 
of anarchic rule in different parts of Ireland, superseding 
the Government as the law of the land, as the Catholic 
Association had superseded them sixty years before. Here, 
however, the resemblance between the two organisations 
ends ; the Catholic Association was sustained by a principle, 
had the essential power of a just cause, and reprobated 
crime with emphatic force ; the Land League worked by 
terrorism and sheer cruelty ; it addressed itself to the 
basest motives ; as Mr. Gladstone took care to point out,. 
" it was dogged by crime," where you traced its footsteps. 
It is a mistake to suppose, as has often been said, that the 
League spread over the whole of the country, or was even 
omnipotent in any one district. The occupiers of the 
soil in Protestant Ulster had grievances of their own ; but, 
with a true instinct, they saw from the outset that a treason- 
able conspiracy was at work in Ireland ; they rejected its 
blandishments and its menaces alike ; as a class they 

1 This was over and over again noticed and commented on by the 
Judges on Assize in Ireland. 

250 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

denounced it, and kept aloof. The League, in fact, had 
real power in not more than ten or eleven counties ; and, 
unlike what had been the case in other Irish movements, 
its strength was greatest in poor and backward districts, the 
seat of a Celtic and servile peasantry, for in these its teaching, 
sordid and vile, and without anything like a true ideal, 
and its detestable tyranny, were most likely to prevail. 
It was, also, wholly a Catholic movement, confined to the 
worst parts of Catholic Ireland ; and it was the irony of 
fate that its real leader, though surrounded by a band of 
Catholic followers, was, like Tone and Lord Edward 
Fitzgerald, a Protestant in name. Circumscribed, however, 
as the movement was, within limits comparatively small, it 
was, we repeat, terrible, where it prevailed, and marked 
with terrible crime. In the two years 1880 and 1881, the 
agrarian outrages in Ireland, which, in 1879, a bad year, 
was little more than eight hundred in number, reached the 
appalling total of nearly seven thousand ; and History 
holds the League morally responsible for these, for they can 
be referred to no other agency. It is almost superfluous to 
inquire to what an extent the directors of the conspiracy 
should be held accountable. They did not openly urge the 
commission of crime ; but the incendiary speeches many 
made led by a natural process to crime ; 1 and with the 
honourable exception of Davitt, who, in this matter, proved 
himself to be sincere, they scarcely ever denounced crime 
honestly and from the heart. Parnell especially winked at 
crime, because he saw that it served his turn, as Robespierre 
winked at the ravings of Marat, for they strengthened the 
forces of the Reign of Terror. 

The Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, at this time, was Lord 
Cowper, who had been the successor of the Duke of Marl- 
borough ; but the real governor was Forster, the Chiefc 

1 Report of the Judges, vol. iv. p. 520 : " The speeches in which land- 
grabbers and other offenders against the League were denounced as 
traitors and as being as bad as informers . . . had the effect of causing 
an excited peasantry to carry out the laws of the Land League, even 
by assassination." 

THE LAND ACT OF 1881 251 

Secretary, the author of the Education Act of 1870, a 
capable, and especially a just-minded statesman. He had 
confronted the League as far as lay in his power ; but he 
was hardly well supported by the Government from the 
first ; it is believed that he wished Parliament to be 
assembled to strengthen his hands, but that his colleagues 
would not follow his advice. A prosecution, however, 
against Parnell and his chief adherents was attempted at the 
close of 1880 ; but this was an unfortunate proceeding for 
many reasons ; the jury, through fear or sympathy, refused 
to convict. The state of Ireland, nevertheless, had become 
so frightful that no Government could hesitate to act ; when 
Parliament met in the beginning of 1881, two measures of 
repression were placed before the House of Commons. 
One was simply a Bill to regulate the use of arms in 
Ireland, on the model of the Act injudiciously dropped ; 
it became law without much opposition. The other was a 
kind of retrospective suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act ; 
it became the occasion of the worst obstruction on the 
part of Parnell and of those who acted with him, which 
hitherto had been known in Parliament. The progress of 
the measure was delayed for many weeks ; the decencies 
of the House of Commons were violated by disgraceful 
scenes ; a rebellious Irish faction was enabled to make a 
decisive change in the time-honoured procedure of the 
great Assembly it baffled and even degraded. The measure, 
however, was ill-adapted to meet the crisis ; subordinate 
agents of the Land League were imprisoned by scores ; 
but the leaders of the conspiracy escaped scatheless; and 
the League transferred its chief officials and its machinery 
to the capital of France, whence its operations were carried 
on with little let or hindrance. Nevertheless, "coercion," as it 
was called, was beginning to have its effects ; and possibly 
the law might have proved sufficient, had the Government 
showed the determined purpose the occasion required. 
Mr. Gladstone had denounced the League in passionate 
language ; he clearly saw that, in his happy words, it " aimed 
at dismemberment through rapine" ; he had dwelt with 

252 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

emphasis on the deeds of blood that attended its course. 
But Mr. Gladstone, throughout his long career, was never 
equal to cope with a grave emergency ; he was essentially a 
great economic Minister for quiet times ; in Irish affairs he had 
always shown a disposition to make compromises and even 
to yield, whenever there was a manifestion of popular force, 
whatever might be its aim or its character. While Ireland 
was still in a state of frightful disorder, and before the law 
had been vindicated and its power felt, he made up his mind 
to concede some at least of the demands of the Land 
League, and to effect a revolution in the Irish land system. 
The speech in which Mr. Gladstone introduced this 
measure, in the Session of 1881, was not one of his 
felicitous efforts. It exhibited, indeed, his command of 
details ; but he did not clearly explain the principles of the 
scheme ; at heart he was probably opposed to them. He 
spoke about proceeding "in the Divine Light of Justice," 
along a slippery and obscure path ; he scoffed at political 
economy being applied to Ireland, and sent it off, with a 
wave of the hand, to Saturn ; he pronounced an eulogium 
on Irish landlords ; he threw on the House of Lords the 
blame for the partial failure of the existing Land Act ; he 
tried to reconcile his new project with that of which he had 
been the author eleven years before. All this, however, was 
tentative and not convincing ; and the orator avoided, perhaps 
prudently, alluding to his pledge that the settlement of 1870 
was to be a final settlement, a pledge on the faith of which 
millions of money had been advanced on Irish land. The 
measure was essentially an elaborate but ill-conceived 
attempt to extend the system of the " Three F's " condemned 
by Mr. Gladstone in 1870 and to which we have so often 
referred, to landed relations throughout Ireland, and to 
make this the mould, so to speak, of Irish tenures ; but it 
was a faulty, nay, a mischievous half-measure. There 
was no definition of a Fair Rent, the very thing that ought 
to have been thoroughly defined. 1 Fixity of Tenure was 

1 This was the more reprehensible because Law, Mr. Gladstone's 
Attorney-General for Ireland, who knew Irishmen, proposed an excellent 
definition of Fair Rent. 

THE LAND ACT OF 1881 253 

limited to a lease of fifteen years, renewable for ever, through 

litigation, at these intervals of time ; Free Sale, though 

allowed under certain conditions, was checked and made 

difficult by somewhat harsh restrictions. The right of the 

landlord to possess his own estate, to deal with it, and to settle 

his rents by contract, was summarily and almost completely 

taken away ; but the immense privileges given to the tenant 

were to be realised, as a rule, with much trouble, and 

through a tedious, costly, and often recurring process. This 

was, however, but a part of the complications of the scheme ; 

by an amendment dexterously engrafted on the Bill the 

Fair Rent was to be a sum from which the value of a 

tenant's improvements was to be deducted ; this involved 

intricate and prolonged inquiries ; and it was wittily said 

" this is putting a landlord first on a rack, and then giving 

him the tender mercy of hours of the thumbscrew." 

A Commission was appointed to carry the measure into 

effect ; it was invested with all but absolute power, especially 

with regard to Fair Rent ; its precedure was to be one of 

continual lawsuits ; and it was to be assisted by a body of 

sub-commissioners, who, though entrusted with high 

judicial duties, were to be the tenants on sufferance of the 

Ministry of the day. The measure, it must be added, was 

charged with the oversubtlety of Mr. Gladstone's creations, 

and it drew injudicious and false distinctions ; it revealed 

the desire, conspicuous in the Act of 1870, to replace Irish 

by English tenure, by provisions which only encouraged 

eviction. For the rest, the Bill offered increased facilities 

to Irish tenants to become owners of their farms through 

advances to be made by the State ; but they were still 

required to pay part of the purchase moneys themselves. 

Every reasonable allowance ought to be made for the 
policy of Mr. Gladstone in this grave matter. He knew what 
the Land League movement was, but he thought it most 
dangerous on its agrarian side ; he probably believed that he 
would break its force by a great agrarian law for the behoof 
of the Irish peasant. The Commission, too, which he had 
appointed, had reported in favour of a reform in Irish land 

254 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

tenure ; and he certainly calculated, not quite wrongly, that 
his measure would operate as a self-acting force, that would 
compel landlords and tenants to adjust their relations, and 
to fix rents by agreements between themselves^ and that 
the litigation caused by his new tribunal would not be 
great. The juncture, besides, was critical and perplexing ; 
yet it is scarcely possible to justify legislation of this kind, 
vicious in itself, and brought forward when parts of Ireland 
were virtually in a state of social war ; and assuredly the 
statesman who gave the pledge, given in 1870, might have 
paused before he broke it in 1881. The Opposition in the 
House of Commons was weak in numbers ; but it assailed 
the Bill with a great force of argument. It was shown that 
the measure could not be reconciled with the Act of 1870 ; 
one was socialistic, the other remedial ; one confiscated the 
rights of the landlord in the guise of law, and by a false 
pretence ; the other protected the equitable rights of the 
tenant. It was shown that the Act of 1870 might be 
amended, so as to secure the just claims of the tenant 
without having recourse to a revolutionary scheme ; it 
was clearly pointed out that the effect of the Bill would 
be to make the position of the Irish landlord nearly 
that of a rent charger on its own estate, and to convert the 
tenant virtually into the owner, and that this would be, not 
only sheer iniquity, but would be attended with the worst 
social mischief. One of the ablest speakers against the Bill 
was the present Lord Ashbourne ; he truly predicted that it 
would lead to litigation without end, and would aggravate 
existing divisions of class ; he caustically remarked that it 
would be much better openly to deprive Irish landlords of a 
large part of their rents, than to despoil them wrongfully 
through the forms of law. The Bill passed through the 
House of Commons, though not without misgivings ; in 
the House of Lords it was admirably exposed and criticised 
by Lord Salisbury and Lord Cairns ; but it was deemed 
advisable to allow it to become law, for what had happened 
the year before was not forgotten ; and many Irish peers 
gave a reluctant assent, alarmed, no doubt, at the power of 

THE LAND ACT OF 1881 255 

the Land League. The Duke of Argyll, however, and 
Lord Lansdowne, resigned office — they disliked the measure 
so much ; and it deserves notice that the Government 
declared that Irish landlords would not suffer real loss, and 
that if they did compensation should be afforded — a state- 
ment to be borne in mind when the whole subject, as is 
inevitable, shall be again reviewed. In Ireland the Bill was 
severely condemned by a large majority of thinking and 
well-informed men ; it was felt how unfortunate it was that 
the counsels of Butt and Longfield had been disregarded 
in 1869-70. 

We shall notice the operation of this agrarian law as its 
effects were by degrees developed. The attitude of Parnell 
and of most of his followers to the measure was character- 
istic in the extreme. They either treated it with open 
contempt or refused to have anything to do with it ; r 
meanwhile the terrorism of the League in no sense 
lessened, or was only checked by the repressive law that 
had been just enacted. As the Land Act was being carried 
into effect, Parnell adopted a course in accord with his 
double-dealing nature. With ostentatious moderation he 
proposed that the quality of the new tribunal should be tested 
by cases selected by the League ; while he was assuring the 
owner of the Irish World that this was to prove how worth- 
less the Land Act was, 2 as some months before he had told 
a spy of the Government, who, he understood, was a Fenian 
messenger, that the " redemption of Ireland" could be 
wrought only " by force of arms." 3 Mr. Gladstone has 
always resented attempts to thwart measures of which he 
had been the author ; the hostility of the League had 
become apparent ; Parnell had declared that if he was 
himself " a great, the Minister was a little robber," for that 

1 See a startling passage in the " New Ireland " of Mr. A. M. Sullivan, 
M.P., a moderate supporter of Home Rule and an able champion of 
Young Ireland, p. 458. 

2 Evidence of the Commission, vol. iv. p. 355. 

3 Report of the Judges, vol. iv. pp. 538-36. Parnell's denial was again 

256 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

his design was to cut down rents ; and thereupon the chief 
of the League, and two or three of his band in Parliament, 
were arrested and sent to prison. The leaders of the 
conspiracy struck back by issuing a manifesto against the 
payment of rent ; no rent was to be paid until Parnell had 
been set free ; for some months desperate efforts were 
made to prolong the rule of disorder and outrage. The 
Land League was proclaimed as criminal by the Govern- 
ment ; but it issued its edicts from its central office in Paris, 
encouraging the peasantry " to keep up the fight " ; and a 
flight of viragoes, like the heroines of revolutionary France, 
spread over the country preaching the evangel of " no rent." 
The movement, however, to a great extent failed ; * the 
arm of the law, imperfect as this was, was gradually 
putting the conspiracy down, when it was suddenly para- 
lysed by an act of the Government which History will 
condemn without reserve. The facts have not yet been 
fully disclosed ; but it appears to be certain that some of 
the Ministry had become alarmed at the number of "the 
suspected persons " imprisoned under the recent Act ; and 
it was resolved to try a complete change of policy. Parnell 
had been conveniently released on parole ; negotiations 
were begun with him ; and the Chief of the League gave 
it to be understood that if concessions were made about 
arrears of rent, and perhaps about the state of things at the 
Castle, not only would order be restored in Ireland, but 
the leaders of the League might " co-operate with the 
Liberal party." 2 The emissary of Parnell, also perhaps 
dropped such words as that " the conspiracy or organisation 
which had been employed to get up outrage would now be 
employed to put outrage down " ; 3 that is, the League 
would make a change of front, like the Government. 
Forster, who had carried out the law at the peril of his 
life, and Lord Cowper at once resigned office ; they were 

1 Report of the Judges, vol. iv. p. 508. 
s Evidence of the Special Commission, vol. i. p. 151. 
3 Evidence of the Commission, vol. i. p. 150. Report of the Judges, 
vol. iv. p. 509. 

THE LAND ACT OF 1881 257 

not ready to pay blackmail to the League to secure its 
triumph in the shape of a hollow and immoral truce. 

The " Kilmainham Treaty/' as it was expressively called, 
was severely condemned in the Lords and the Commons ; 
it did great injury to Mr. Gladstone's Government, as the 
" Glamorgan Treaty," made with Irish rebels, brought ruin 
on the cause of Charles I. A surrender to a conspiracy 
not yet subdued by the law was not, indeed, the usual 
policy of British statesmen ; it was not thus that Grey had 
dealt with the Tithe War, or Peel with the comparatively 
innocuous Repeal Movement. Parnell was probably playing 
his wonted double game and deceiving the Government in 
this arrangement ; he was ready to promise anything to 
get out of prison, for he was not a man of real courage ; 
but he had not the will, or perhaps the power, to carry into 
effect the proposed compact. Be this as it may, Lord 
Spencer was sent to Ireland as Lord-Lieutenant to further 
the new policy ; Lord Frederick Cavendish was his Chief 
Secretary ; it was generally understood that, in a phrase 
which Mr. Gladstone has made classical, " Conciliation was 
to replace coercion," and that the League was to be pacified 
by Irish concessions about the land. These anticipations, 
however, were not fulfilled ; a frightful deed of blood 
brought them suddenly to an end. A band of assassins of 
Fenian origin had been formed in Dublin for some time ; 
they had over and over again laid in wait to murder 
Forster ; on the 6th of May, 1882, they slew Lord Fre- 
derick Cavendish in the Phoenix Park, and with him the 
Under-Secretary, Thomas Burke, an able man, who had 
done much to exasperate the League. Parnell and his 
followers, we may rest assured, had nothing to do with 
this execrable deed ; they have been fully acquitted by a 
legal tribunal ; the crime, too, was against their interest 
at the time, for their chief, it was believed, was to receive 
high office ; and we may rightly think they were incapable 
of even consenting to it. It is more probable that the 
murder was due to the disappointed fury of a few extreme 
Fenians ; they had heard that Parnell and some of his 


258 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

party were to be made " instruments of the rule of the 
Saxon"; the " cause of Ireland" had again been betrayed; 
warning must be given that no one could escape their ven- 
geance. But one or two prominent officials of the League 
had perhaps a guilty knowledge of what was being planned ; 
and, in after years, part of the Press of the League showed 
a kind of odious sympathy with the criminals when they 
had been overtaken by the arm of justice. 

Before the " Kilmainham Treaty " was made, a measure 
of repression for Ireland had been talked of, for English 
opinion had declared against the Land League and its 
works. But the appalling tragedy of the Phoenix Park 
provoked a universal cry for " coercion ; " the sorrow 
publicly, nay, sincerely expressed by Parnell and his 
followers was treated with scorn ; Mr. Gladstone, always 
swayed by the popular voice, brought in a Bill to carry 
out its mandate. The measure was the most severe known 
since the famous " coercion " of the Tithe War ; Trial by 
jury was suspended in the case of even the worst crimes ; 
the summary powers of magistrates were extended to many 
offences ; whole districts were placed under the rule of the 
curfew ; the Lord-Lieutenant received authority to suppress 
seditious prints and even public meetings ; severe provisions 
were directed against foreigners, that is, against Fenians 
from the United States ; inquiries to detect crime by inquisi- 
torial means were permitted ; districts where crime was 
perpetrated were made subject to heavy money penalties. 
Parnell and his lieutenants, abandoning their late attitude, 
resisted the Bill with the usual obstructive tactics ; but 
England was in earnest, and the Bill became law. A short 
but fierce struggle raged for some months between the 
forces of lawlessness and the law ; the League, shattered 
as it was, was still alive, and put forth its expiring strength ; 
" boycotting," difficult to discover and to repress, was still 
continued widely in a few counties ; and there were several 
instances of fresh deeds of blood. But the peculiar feature 
of the conflict was that the means were adopted which had 
been tried in 1796-7, to paralyse justice on her own seat ; 


juries were intimidated by atrocious threats ; several officials 
of the Courts were maimed or half beaten to death ; judges 
and magistrates were exposed to the gravest dangers, and 
were kept in daily fear for their lives. The law, neverthe- 
I less, was boldly and ably carried out ; Lord Spencer and 
his Chancellor, Sir Edward Sullivan, in force of character 
not unlike Clare, distinguished themselves for cool courage 
and judgment ; the murderers of the Phcenix Park were 
convicted, through the secret inquiries the recent act 
sanctioned ; the conspiracy, and all that belonged to it, 
were confronted and quelled. There was a sudden and 
immense diminution of agrarian crime ; these offences fell 
from nearly three thousand five hundred in 1882, to eight 
hundred and seventy in 1883, and to seven hundred and 
sixty-two in the following year, 1 that is almost to their 
normal level. It is deplorable, we have before remarked, 
that violent agitation has, over and over again, been the 
means through which Ireland has obtained reforms, and 
not the power of strong and well-informed opinion. But 
when crime, and that indeed with scarcely any excuse, ran 
riot, as it did from 1880 to 1882, " coercion," as it is called, 
is a necessity of State ; and this has never failed when 
judiciously applied in Ireland. That "force is no remedy" 
is mere sentimental drivel. 

The Land League had, we have said, been suppressed ; 
when order in Ireland had been partly restored, it reappeared 
under another name. The skill of Parnell in masking a 
conspiracy was seldom more conspicuously seen than 
when he established the Irish National League. Like the 
"New Departure" arranged with Davitt, like the Land 
League itself in its first professions, this Association had a 
Constitutional aspect ; it was to promote Home Rule, Land 
reform, and local self-government ; its cause was to be 
sustained in Parliament. It was, however, the old Land 
League in a seemingly harmless guise ; its organisation, its 
functionaries, its branches were the same ; at bottom its 
leaders had the same aim, the subversion of British rule in 
1 Report of the Judges, vol. iv. p. 522. 

2<5o IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

Ireland, and of Irish landlords. 1 Its operations, however, 
in view of " coercion," were for a long time weak and 
tentative only ; its astute designer probably deceived Mr. 
Gladstone, though not Lord Spencer on the spot, 2 01 
intelligent Irishmen, who stood apart from the strife 01 
faction. The formation, however, of this apparently law- 
abiding body, had the results, which Parnell, no doubt, 
expected. A considerable number of the " respectable " 
classes, which hitherto had feared or disliked the Land 
League, fell into the ranks of its successor ; this was 
especially the case with the Irish Catholic clergy, always a 
mighty influence in Irish affairs, whom Parnell had tried 
to gain from the outset.3 The attitude, indeed, of the 
Catholic Church in Ireland, as regards the movement, had 
been most significant. An aged prelate, once an ardent 
Repealer, had denounced the agitation as " Fenian," when 
it began in Mayo ; this, too, was the view of Dr. McCabe, the 
successor of Cullen ; and the great majority of the elder 
and parish priests repudiated the Land League and con- 
demned its teaching. But some of the bishops believed 
the movement to be, in the main, one on behalf of the 
peasantry ; and many of the younger clergy, who, we have 
seen, had resented the interdict of Cardinal Cullen, took 
part in it, and became members of the League. This 
tendency increased, as the agitation grew in strength, and; 
spread over a large part of Ireland ; the priests, rulers of 
their flocks, but also dependent on them, were carried away 
by a powerful impulse, and in numerous instances joined 
the League, though often against their real will ; a striking 
proof how different would have been the result, had they 
been in the position they ought long to have held, and 
been honourably endowed by the State. The order now 
entered the National League largely ; many were made 
presidents of its local branches, and directed the manage- 

1 Report of the Judges, vol. iv. p. 532. The Judges dwell on this, 

2 See " Continuity of the Irish Revolutionary Movement," pp. 22-23. ! 

3 Report of the Judges, vol. iv. p. 489. 


ment of its local affairs; for the organisation was, apparently, 
within the limits of the law. It is only right to add that no 
Catholic clergyman was convicted of crime during the reign 
of the Land League. 

The Commission, meanwhile, chosen to carry out the 
new Land Act, had been actively engaged in its principal 
work, the arrangement of "fair," or, as they were called, 
"judicial" rents. It was all but impossible f h&& that, as 
things stood in Ireland, a tribunal of this kind would do 
common justice. The tendency was irresistible to bid 
against the Land League, and to reduce rents as a sop to 
the peasantry ; the Commission was appointed to give 
effect to a policv. like the Encumbered Estates Commission 


Page 261, line 8, For " all but impossible but that 
read "all but impossible that.'' 

determined by the price ot the market, but on a calculation 
usually from a third to a fourth less. The provisions, 
too, as to exempting "improvements" from rent, just in the 
abstract as they might seem to be, but not just in existing 
facts, were made a potent means to cut rents down : " deteri- 
oration " done by the tenant as a counter claim to " improve- 
ment" was seldom regarded; and the inquiries on the 
subject, as had been foreseen, were not only an abuse of 
the rights of property, but caused frightful demoralisation 
through unscrupulous swearing. The sub-commissioners, 
not directed by positive rules, and scarcely controlled by 

2<5o IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

Ireland, and of Irish landlords, 1 Its operations, however, 
in view of " coercion," were for a long time weak and 
tentative only ; its astute designer probably deceived Mr. 
Gladstone, though not Lord Spencer on the spot, 2 01 
intelligent Irishmen, who stood apart from the strife 01 
faction. The formation, however, of this apparently law- 
abiding body, had the results, which Parnell, no doubt, 
expected. A considerable number of the " respectable " 
classes, which hitherto had feared or disliked the Land 
League, fell into the ranks of its successor ; this was 
especially the case with the Irish Catholic clergy, always a 
mighty influence in Irish affairs, whom Parnell had tried 
to gain from the outset.3 The attitude, indeed, of the 

by a powerful impulse, and in numerous instances joined 
the League, though often against their real will ; a striking 
proof how different would have been the result, had they 
been in the position they ought long to have held, and 
been honourably endowed by the State. The order now 
entered the National League largely ; many were made 
presidents of its local branches, and directed the manage- 

1 Report of the Judges, vol. iv. p. 532. The Judges dwell on this 

2 See " Continuity of the Irish Revolutionary Movement," pp. 22-23 

3 Report of the Judges, vol. iv. p. 489. 


ment of its local affairs; for the organisation was, apparently, 
within the limits of the law. It is only right to add that no 
Catholic clergyman was convicted of crime during the reign 
of the Land League. 

The Commission, meanwhile, chosen to carry out the 
new Land Act, had been actively engaged in its principal 
work, the arrangement of "fair," or, as they were called, 
"judicial" rents. It was all but impossible -b^tt that, as 
things stood in Ireland, a tribunal of this kind would do 
common justice. The tendency was irresistible to bid 
against the Land League, and to reduce rents as a sop to 
the peasantry ; the Commission was appointed to give 
effect to a policy, like the Encumbered Estates Commission 
of thirty years before ; History records what such bodies 
have done in Ireland from the days of Cromwell to those 
of Victoria. No attempt was made by the Court to perform 
its first duty, to determine the principles on which " Fair 
Rent " was to be fixed ; on the contrary it ran into socialism 
from the first moment. The presiding judge is reported to 
have announced that the object of the statute was to make 
" tenants live and thrive ; " in other words, the standard of 
rent was to be not what the land was worth, but what could 
be paid for it by a peasant, however lazy or worthless ; 
rent was to gravitate to the level of the worst kind of 
husbandry. At the same time, a complete misconception 
of the law, the principle of competition was excluded, in 
considering what a " fair " rent might be ; this was not to be 
determined by the price of the market, but on a calculation 
usually from a third to a fourth less. The provisions, 
too, as to exempting "improvements" from rent, just in the 
abstract as they might seem to be, but not just in existing 
facts, were made a potent means to cut rents down : " deteri- 
oration " done by the tenant as a counter claim to " improve- 
ment " was seldom regarded ; and the inquiries on the 
subject, as had been foreseen, were not only an abuse of 
the rights of property, but caused frightful demoralisation 
through unscrupulous swearing. The sub-commissioners, 
not directed by positive rules, and scarcely controlled by 

262 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

the Superior Court, were, at the same time, in the words of 
one of their members, "let loose upon the estates of the 
gentry ; " the results were what was to be expected, 
when officials dependent on a Government for bread, do 
what they know a Government seeks to be done. In the 
teeth of the Report of the Commission, which had just 
declared that overrenting in Ireland was not frequent, rents 
were cut down from twenty to thirty per cent. ; rents paid for 
a century without a murmur were treated like rents raised 
a year before ; the rents of the old noblesse and the new 
landlords were dealt with alike; nay, the owners of excessive 
rents fared better than the owners of those which were just. 
Confiscation, in a word, proceeded in the form of law, as 
it had proceeded under the Encumbered Estates Act ; and 
it should be added that the Sub-Commissioners were over 
and over again at odds with each other ; agreed only in 
pulling down rents ; and had a direct interest to despoil 
landlords, for their members held office on the tenure of 
having continuous work. No doubt some of the County 
Court Judges made also reductions of rent at this time ; 
and certainly some of these cases were hard ; but public 
opinion would not have endured such a spectacle for six 
months had it been seen in England. 1 

An Act abolishing arrears of rent, the State contributing 
part of these to the landlords — the Church surplus was 
again drawn on — was a complement to the Land Act of 
188 1. This measure was another concession to the League ; 
it was the novce tabulce of the demagogues of Rome ; it 
increased the demoralisation of the tenant class in Ireland, 
but it facilitated the adjustment of Fair Rent ; and on the 
principles of the late legislation something was to be said 
for it. Parnell, by this time, had become the Dictator of 
the Home Rule party, and of his satellites in the House of 
Commons ; he bowed this assemblage of Celts to his 
imperious will ; he had the ascendency Robespierre had 
over the cowering Mountain. He had attained the end 

1 Lord Salisbury especially condemned the proceedings of the Land 
Commission at this time. 


aimed at by Lucas and Duffy in 1850-52 ; he was at the 
head of sixty submissive adherents ; he threw this great 
weight into the scale of British parties indifferently, as it 
might suit his purpose. He was usually in opposition to 
Mr. Gladstone, for he scented the fall of a greatly weakened 
Ministry ; but he always turned to account for his own 
ends the alien and really hostile element which, ever since 
the days of O'Connell, had made its way from Ireland, more 
or less, into Parliament. At the same time he gave remark- 
able proof how admirably he could conduct, in his own 
phrase, " a constitutional and an illegal " movement. His 
speeches in the House of Commons were nearly all 
moderate ; if not eloquent or even profound, they showed 
real knowledge of Irish affairs ; but now and then, when an 
occasion arose and a suitable audience was found in Ireland 
or elsewhere, he did not hesitate to use seditious language 
and to appeal to revolutionary and other evil passions. 1 
The National League, meanwhile, had been throwing off 
its constitutional mask, and revealing itself in its true 
aspect. Disorder and open violence were repressed by 
" coercion " ; few deeds of blood or even of outrage were 
done at this time ; but the conspiracy smouldered beneath 
the surface ; its real purpose was in no sense changed ; and 
Parnell and his followers gave it large, if secret, support. 
The detestable system of " boycotting " perhaps increased ; 
the heads of the local branches of the League held courts 
to punish transgressors of the " unwritten law " ; there was 
no positive resistance to the payment of rent ; but " land 
grabbers," who took evicted farms, and "traitors to the 
cause " of all kinds, were subjected in not a few districts to 

1 I take two quotations at random : — " We cannot under the British 
Constitution ask for more than the restitution of Grattan's Parliament. 
But no man has a right to fix a boundary to the march of a ' nation.' 
. . . The day is dawning when we shall have taken the first great step 
to strike down British misrule and the noble dreams of Grattan, 
Emmet, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, and every Irish patriot ought at all 
times be brought to a triumph and realisation." Report of the Judges 
vol. iv. p. 448. "The Truth about the Land League," by Arnold 
Forster, p. 26. 

264 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

what simply was barbarous social torture. In three or four 
counties thousands of acres were left desolate through this 
wicked process ; the will of the National League prevailed 
in parts of the country all the more dangerously because 
the face of things was orderly ; landlords were deprived of 
their rights in this way in many instances ; but, as before, 
the humbler classes suffered the worst. The movement 
was encouraged from America by the Irish World, an advo- 
cate of assassination and the use of dynamite, with which 
Parnell, we have seen, had had relations ; and by a vile 
Press at home, subsidised and even owned by chiefs of the 
League. 1 

While the conspiracy in Ireland, though alive, was still 
half dormant, it had become active in the extreme in the 
United States, the real base of its operations from first to 
last. Parnell, when he had visited America in 1879 had, 
we have seen, been welcomed by Fenians of all kinds, 
including leaders of the Clan na Gael ; he had founded the 
Land League of America corresponding to the Central 
League in the Irish capital. The relations between the 
associates thus brought together strengthened as the aggres- 
sive movement went on ; the Land War in Ireland was, in 
fact, sustained by contributions from across the Atlantic ; 
for nothing is more certain — and it is most significant — than 
that if the Irish peasantry, in many counties, were not 
unwilling to profit by it, they gave it hardly any support in 

1 Extracts, a few only, from these publications, will be found in the 
Report of the Judges, vol. iv. pp. 510-19. They extend from 1880 to 
1885. I select two only. Patrick Ford wrote thus in the Irish World in 
December, 1883 : "England ought to be plagued with all the plagues of 
Egypt, she ought to be scourged by day and terrorised by night. . . . 
This is my idea of making war on England." So again, United Ireland, 
December, 1883 : " Surely six hundred Irish gentlemen could not eat 
their dinner without pouring out libations to the admiration of an old 
lady who is only known in Ireland by her scarcely decently disguised 
hatred of this country, and by the inordinate amount of her salary." 
Thousands of pages of this pestilent and wicked stuff were scattered 
broadcast through Ireland : the Special Commission (vol. iv. p. 519) found 
that Parnell and many of his adherents " did disseminate newspapers 
tending to incite to sedition and the commission of crime." 


money, very different from the case of the old Catholic 
" Rent/' and the subscriptions to Repeal in O'Connell's 
time. These funds were largely collected by Patrick Ford, 
the editor of the Irish World, an ally of Parnell probably 
since 1879 ; and it has been conclusively proved that the 
Irish leader, and most of his adherents in the House of 
Commons, " invited the assistance of," and received ample 
subsidies from, the conductor of this abominable print, 
which, we have said, had found its way into many parts of 
Ireland. 1 Meanwhile the conspirators of the Clan na Gael 
had laid hold of the Land League of America, and gradually 
had become its masters ; this was completely effected in 
1883 when the League, after the Irish model, was changed 
into the American National League ; and these desperadoes, 
no doubt encouraged by the success of the Irish agrarian 
movement, proceeded to carry out the threats against 
England, which had for years been their avowed policy, 
threats illustrated by the murderous crimes and the explo- 
sions of dynamite which ere long followed. Parnell and 
his party in Parliament, beyond question, had nothing to do 
with these atrocious deeds, no more than with the murders 
in the Phoenix Park ; it has not even been proved that they 
were cognisant of the ascendency acquired by the Clan na 
Gael over the organisations which owed their origin to 
them. 2 But Parliamentary followers of Parnell were sent 
by him to America in 1882, and during the next few years 
to promote the cause of the Irish National League ; some 
were present at " Conventions," at which heads of the Clan 
na Gael were the master spirits ; and no doubt can exist 
that at this period they " invited and obtained the assistance 
and co-operation of the physical force party in America, 
including the Clan na Gael, and, in order to obtain that 
assistance abstained from repudiating or condemning the 
action of that party. "3 History will at least pronounce that 

1 Report of the Judges, vol. iv. p. 544. 2 Ibid., vol. iv. p. 544. 

3 Ibid., vol. iv. p. 544. The relations between the Clan na Gael, 
the American League, and Parnell and his party are admirably traced 
out in this Report, vol. iv. pp. 534-544. 

266 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

in this and other instances, a "constitutional and an illegal 
movement " were associated with most deplorable results. 

During the progress of these events in America, and while 
the Clan na Gael were intent on their project, exultingly 
announced in the Irish World, of laying " London in ashes 
in twenty-four hours," the " uncrowned King of Ireland," as 
he was called in the National League, was coolly carrying 
on the kind of war he preferred at Westminster. He con- 
tinued to oppose Mr. Gladstone's Ministry, and with his 
followers contributed to its fall in 1885 ; these had singled 
out Lord Spencer for worse than Jacobin abuse, because he 
had fearlessly carried out the law. The shifty Irish policy 
of Mr. Gladstone had had its part in bringing the crisis 
about, for opinion in England had declared against it ; but 
the result in this instance was mainly due to more general 
and world-wide causes, especially to a disastrous policy 
abroad. Parliament had passed a measure the year before 
which has had an important influence on the affairs of 
Ireland. The Parliamentary franchise in Ireland, we have 
seen, since the abolition of the forty-shilling freeholds, had 
always stood at rather a high level, though the electorate 
had been increased in 1851 ; even the Borough franchise 
had not been assimilated to that of England in the Reform 
period of 1867-8. This was in harmony with plain and 
existing facts ; for it is unnecessary to remark that, in this 
province, it is far from wise to extend the same system to 
countries in very different states of progress ; to place back- 
ward, poor and uncivilised Ireland on the same level in this 
respect with England wealthy, advancing, and, above all, 
trained for long centuries in self-government. But demo- 
cracy, under Mr. Gladstone, was to have its way ; in 
1884, the Parliamentary franchise in counties and boroughs 
was indiscriminately bestowed on all persons who possessed 
a house in Great Britain and Ireland, that is, in the case of 
Ireland, on an electorate composed, in an overwhelming 
majority, of petty peasants, wretched cottars, and landless 
labourers, classes on which Rousseau himself would have 
hardly liked to recognise his idol, " the Sovereign People." 


At the same time no reduction was made in the number of 
the representatives sent from Ireland, who, since the decline 
of the population after the Famine, were largely in excess 
of their true proportion, taking any criterion that can be 
conceived ; Mr. Gladstone would hear no arguments on 
the subject. The consequences of this two-fold policy were 
such as naturally were to be expected. The extension of 
the franchise to masses of almost pauper peasants, ignorant, 
superstitious, and easily led, was at first greatly to increase 
the power of the National League, which promised them an 
Eldorado if they obeyed its commands, and ultimately to 
give additional weight to the immense influence of the Irish 
Catholic priesthood, hardly a salutary element in British 
and Imperial politics. Even more important, it practically 
deprived the classes in Ireland possessing property and 
intelligence of all weight in public affairs ; these have been 
literally swamped, and, as it were effaced, by the degraded 
Electorate, which hems them in on all sides. As for the 
representation of Ireland the immediate effect was to 
increase largely the band which followed Parnell. 1 

The troubled years we have briefly reviewed have not yet 
produced their final results ; they may prove to be a turn- 
ing point in the affairs of Ireland. The distinctive feature 
of the period, as we now see it, was the development of the 
Land and the National Leagues, and the evil and tragic 
incidents that followed in their train. This essentially was 
not an agrarian movement, though it had its agrarian side, 
for the time most prominent ; it was not, as has falsely been 
said, the uprising of a wronged peasantry against an oppressive 
race of landlords. No doubt thousands who joined the 
League had not rebellious or dangerous ends in views ; no 
doubt thousands of the occupiers of the soil in Ireland 
thought only of the reduction of rent in a season of distress. 
But the movement was a conspiracy hatched in America, 
rising out of the Fenianism, which had its source in the 
Famine, supported almost wholly from American funds, only 

1 See on this subject some striking remarks, too long to be quoted, 
in Mr. Lecky's " Democracy and Liberty," vol. i. pp. 22, 23. 

268 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

using the Irish peasant for its own ends ; and these were to 
overthrow British rule in Ireland, and its supposed mainstay, 
the Irish landed gentry. A series of circumstances gave it 
enormous power ; and it found a leader in Parnell admir- 
ably skilled in drawing together its complex forces, in 
making them effective in Ireland, and in Parliament, and in 
concealing its real aims and its character. Whether this 
remarkable man was a rebel at heart, like Wolfe Tone ; 
whether he was only seeking to rise to power in Ireland by 
encouraging the conspiracy, and placing himself at the head 
of a following who bowed to his tyrannous rule ; how far 
he controlled, or was controlled by the elements of evil he 
unscrupulously let loose, will probably never be fully known ; 
all that is evident is that he showed extraordinary power in 
directing a movement of which he became the master, in 
artfully maintaining its double aspect, and in effectually 
deceiving many British statesmen. Too much, however, is 
not to be made of Parnell's gifts ; had not Mr. Gladstone, 
over and over again, succumbed to a conspiracy he under- 
stood, but would not boldly face, the result would certainly 
have been very different ; as it was, Mr. Gladstone threw 
the Irish landed gentry as a sop to Cerberus, and yet did 
not appease the ravening monster. For the rest, whatever 
Parnell's ends may have been, the means he adopted or 
sanctioned were detestable ; there was nothing whatever in 
the state of Ireland to justify, even to palliate, the execrable 
deeds of the Land and the National Leagues in this period. 
But the conspiracy was still far from its close ; it was to 
proceed to even greater success ; it was, through the aid of 
a self-deceived statesman and a recreant party, to shake the 
order of things in these realms, until it was to encounter the 
clearly pronounced will of the British nation. 



Home Rule in the Parliament of 1880-5 — Lord Salisbury in office — 
Attitude of the Conservative- party as regards Irish affairs — The 
General Election of 1885 — Mr. Gladstone suddenly adopts the 
policy of Home Rule — The probable reasons — Increase of disorder 
in Ireland — Fall of Lord Salisbury's Government — Mr. Gladstone 
forms a Ministry — His principal followers refuse to support Home 
Rule—The Home Rule Bill of 1886— The Land Purchase Bill- 
Characteristics of Mr. Gladstone's scheme — Defeat of the Home 
Rule Bill— The General Election of 1886— Complete defeat of Mr. 
Gladstone — Lord Salisbury again in office — The Chicago Con- 
vention — Parnell's Land Bill rejected in the House of Commons — 
Renewal of agitation in Ireland — Boycotting and the Plan of 
Campaign — The Crimes Act of 1887 — Mr. Balfour Chief Secretary — 
Persistent obstruction in the House of Commons — Conflict with 
disorder in Ireland — Conduct of Mr. Gladstone and the Opposition 
— The Land Act of 1887 — The Special Commission — Report of the 
Judges — Parnell's policy — Verdict against him in the Divorce 
Court — Schism and break up of his party — His fall and death — 
Policy of Land Purchase in Ireland — The Act of 1891 — The Local 
Government Bill for Ireland — It is dropped — The General Election 
of 1892 — The Government defeated by a small majority — England 
still opposed to Home Rule — Mr. Gladstone again in office — The 
Home Rule Bill of 1893 — Its glaring defects — Debates in the House 
of Commons — Closure by compartments — The Bill rejected in the 
House of Lords — Mr. Gladstone retires from public life — Lord 
Rosebery Prime Minister — His Irish administration and that of 
Mr. Morley — General Election of 1895 — Complete defeat of Home 
Rule — Lord Salisbury in office — Fusion of Unionist parties in the 
Government — The Land Act of 1896 — The report of the Childers 
Commission — Ireland at the close of 1897. 

At the General Election of 1880 Ireland had sent to the 

House of Commons some sixty members — about the same 


270 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

number as in 1874 — pledged generally to the policy of Home 
Rule. Some of these men had been followers of Butt ; but 
the majority were of the faith of the " active party," which, 
we have seen, had become a power, by degrees, in Ireland, 
under Parnell's guidance. As the Land League movement 
developed itself, and the objects of its leaders became mani- 
fest, the few Moderates abandoned Parnell — especially the 
one or two remaining Protestants, who had first pronounced 
in favour of Home Rule ; but Parnell had risen to the head 
of the party, as a whole, and had strengthened it with new 
adherents from time to time. He had made himself, as we 
have said, the master of this band, formed of many and even 
diverse elements — nominees of the Irish Catholic priesthood, 
mere agitators of a socialistic type, or Fenians in a Constitu- 
tional mask — but Catholics, it may be said, to a man, and 
nearly all the chiefs of the Land and National Leagues ; and 
he had welded it into a submissive faction, which had held 
the balance between the great parties in the State, and had 
at least hastened the fall of Mr. Gladstone's Government. 
Parnell, however, had not let Home Rule drop ; he had 
advocated it at Westminster more than once in reasonable 
language, the very opposite of the speeches he had made in 
Ireland and elsewhere * ; in this instance, as in so many 
others, he was unscrupulously playing his usual double game. 
The Parliament, nevertheless, of 1880-5 had given little 

1 This was Parnell's language in the House of Commons : " I have 
been charged several times . . . with desiring to make the land 
movement of Ireland a lever for disintegrating the Empire. These 
sentences have been taken from speeches. ... in which I was un- 
able thoroughly to explain the views which I then assumed and still 
hold." This was Parnell's " second voice " in Ireland : " Let every 
tenant farmer, while he keeps a firm grip on his holding, recognise also 
the great truth that he is serving his country and the people at large, 
and helping to break down British misrule in Ireland. . . . We stand 
to-day in the same position that our ancestors stood. We declare that 
it is the duty of every Irishman to free his country if he can. . . . 
We will work by constitutional means as long as it suits us. ... I 
thought that each one of them must wish with Sarsfield of old, ' Oh that 
I could carry these arms for Ireland ! ' Well it may come to that some 


attention to Home Rule ; with respect to Ireland it had been 
occupied with efforts to quell the social disorder that pre- 
vailed, or to effect a change in the Irish land system ; Home 
Rule made no apparent progress in it. Mr. Gladstone, 
indeed, about the time of the " Kilmainham Treaty," had 
dealt with the subject ; but he had referred to it chiefly to 
show that Home Rule could not even be discussed in Parlia- 
ment until the problem had been solved how to make a 
distinction between British, Irish, and Imperial affairs, the 
definition of which had not been attempted. 1 This utterance, 
however, was the only one of importance that seemed even 
to leave the question open ; the principal followers of Mr. 
Gladstone, in fact British statesmen, without exception, con- 
demned Home Rule in emphatic language, and declared 
for the Union with no uncertain voice 2 ; and this, indis- 
putably, was the judgment of an overwhelming majority of 
the House of Commons. Home Rule appeared to be as 
hopeless in 1885 as it had appeared to be in 1872-4 ; recent 
events in Ireland had satisfied impartial minds that it was a 
dangerous, nay, an impossible policy ; and this, though it 
was known that the late change in the franchise would 
increase the number of votes from Ireland in favour of 
Home Rule in a new Parliament. It deserves special notice 
that a proposal made by Mr. Chamberlain, already a leading 
personage in the House of Commons, to give Ireland large 
powers of local self-government, had not received the 
sanction of Mr. Gladstone's Ministry. 

Lord Salisbury came into office in Mr. Gladstone's place ; 
his followers were in a minority in the House of Commons ; 
but the Conservatives had, with Parnell and his band, been 
in opposition during the last few years. The results were 
ere long seen, so often beheld, when, under conditions of 

x See Mr. Gladstone's " History of an Idea," p. 17, the best apology he 
could make for his conversion to Home Rule. 

2 Lord Spencer thus expressed the mind of his colleagues in 1884 : 
11 The statesmen of the nation . . . will not give up one point or one 
idea which they consider necessary to maintain the United Parliament 
of England and the Sovereignty of the Queen " (" Continuity of the Irish 
Revolutionary Movement," p. 23). 

272 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

this kind, parties, though essentially and even bitterly hostile 
accidentally combine on the field of politics. The ties 
insensibly formed were not at once dissolved ; and though 
nothing like an alliance was made, there was a tendency 
at least to co-operate for a time. The repressive measure of 
1882 was dropped, which Mr. Gladstone had wished to 
renew in part ; the Lord-Lieutenant, who was sent to 
Ireland, charged to convey a message of peace, had an 
interview with Parnell, perhaps about Home Rule ; and a 
few Conservatives unjustly condemned passages of Lord 
Spencer's " coercive " policy. Simultaneously Parnell de- 
nounced Mr. Gladstone and the late Government in un- 
measured language ; they were all that was tyrannous, vile, 
and base ; and during the contest at the polls that followed, 
the weight of the Irish vote in England and Scotland was 
thrown wholly into the scale against the Liberal party. This 
was an ominous and unfortunate state of things ; the results, 
not slow to develop themselves, were probably more grave 
than has been commonly supposed. Parliament was dis- 
solved within a few months ; and though the condition of 
Ireland was discussed at the General Election of 1885, 
English and Scotch questions were much more prominent. 
Lord Salisbury declared emphatically for the Union, though 
he had let fall words in a recent speech unfairly twisted into 
a different meaning ; and so, with remarkable earnestness 
did Mr. Balfour, even now becoming a statesman of mark. 
But Lord Salisbury and the Conservative leaders mainly con- 
fined themselves to British affairs ; they dwelt much on 
plans to disestablish the Church of England, and even more 
on the reform of laws relating to the land, and on local 
government for England and Scotland only. Mr. Glad- 
stone's attitude was not very different, he employed language, 
indeed, with respect to Ireland, which, he claimed after- 
wards, showed that he had Home Rule in his mind ; but 
this, interpreted by his own speeches, to which he appealed 
in a short time, was assuredly not the meaning of his words ; ■ 

1 See a very remarkable letter in the Times of February 11, 1886, in 
which Mr. Gladstone's previous utterances and speeches are compared. 


and save that he insisted on an immediate reform of the in- 
effectual procedure of the House of Commons, he enlarged 
on the same topics as those of his rival, and evidently 
believed that English and Scotch affairs would engross the 
attention of the coming Parliament. One point, no doubt, 
as regards Ireland, he repeatedly pressed, he adjured the 
Liberal party to give him a great majority, which would 
enable him to dispense with Parnell, for it would be 
dangerous otherwise to deal with the case of Ireland ; but 
no one could suppose that Home Rule could lurk behind 
such appeals. His principal adherents, without exception, 
pronounced in favour of the Union quite as strongly as the 
chiefs of the Conservative party. 

This, briefly, was the state of public opinion when the 
General Election of 1885 t°°k place. The boroughs in 
England largely fell off from their allegiance to the Liberal 
party ; but the counties partly redressed the balance. The 
Liberals in Great Britain had a majority over their adver- 
saries of upwards of eighty votes. In Ireland the contest 
was short but decisive ; Parnell called on the country to 
declare for Home Rule, an admirable and convenient cry; 
the Catholic priesthood and the National League sent the 
lately enfranchised masses to the polls ; intelligence and 
property were overborne x ; and Parnell secured for himself 
and his satellites a majority almost exactly the same as that 
which the Liberals had gained in England and Scotland. 
In these circumstances, spite of faint denials, it transpired, 
before long, that Mr. Gladstone had suddenly adopted the 
policy of Home Rule, of which, in the judgment of nearly 
all thinking men, he had been for years the avowed 
opponent. In this case, as in that of the Established 
Church of Ireland, this rapid change of conduct, question- 
able as it was, cannot wholly be ascribed to mere personal 
motives. With his tendency to yield to whatever he deemed 
to be a manifestation of the popular will, Mr. Gladstone 
certainly believed that Home Rule was passionately sought 

1 The majority, however, of votes recorded for Home Rule at the 
election was comparatively small. See the Times, December 21, 1885. 


274 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

by five-sixths of Irishmen. This alone may have determined 
his purpose. He saw clearly, too, that if, as seemed 
probable, Parnell would support the Conservatives for his 
own ends, the Liberal majority in the House of Commons 
would disappear, and Parliament would be reduced to a 
deadlock, a grave evil for the State, of which the danger 
may have induced Fox, in 1783, to address himself to North, 
and to form the disastrous coalition of that day. Mr. 
Gladstone, moreover, may have persuaded himself — and 
this is probable in a high degree — that since the Con- 
servative dealings with Parnell " coercion " in Ireland had 
become impossible ; and it must be added that he sincerely 
wished to act in concert with Lord Salisbury in an attempt 
finally to settle the Irish Question. Yet these considerations 
cannot justify the veteran statesman, we think, at this 
juncture. He must have known that, since the Act of 1882 
had expired, there had been a sudden and great increase of 
crime in Ireland. Not to speak of Parnell and his men in 
Parliament, he cannot have been blind to the proceedings 
of the National League, now rapidly acquiring formidable 
strength. Was this the time to effect an immense change in 
Ireland, as great as that effected by Tyrconnell in 1689-91 ? 
The new Parliament, besides, had been assembled to deal 
mainly with English and Scotch subjects. Whatever were 
Mr. Gladstone's views as to Ireland, he had never breathed 
a word to his late colleagues on behalf of Home Rule ; nay, 
he had sanctioned their recent condemnation of it. Was 
he, in these circumstances, to reverse the Liberal policy 
pursued towards Ireland for a long series of years, and to 
endeavour to drag his adherents in his wake ? Nor_were 
personal motives by any means absent. Mr. Gladstone 
calculated, there is no reason to doubt, that he could induce 
the whole Liberal party to follow his lead, and that Parnell 
and his band would fall into their ranks. In that event he 
would necessarily become minister again, and would com- 
mand an overwhelming majority in the House of Com- 
mons. 1 " I have not one word to say," he once wrote, 
1 See the Times, December 18, 1885. The National Press Agency. 


u for changes systematically timed and tuned to the interest 
of personal advancement." He seems to have been uncon- 
scious how the aphorism might apply to himself. 

Meanwhile disorder in Ireland had been growing apace ; 
the tale of agrarian crime had increased a third ; the odious 
practice of " boycotting " had quadrupled ; the intimidation 
of juries and magistrates and the defiance of law had become 
general in not a few districts ; the branches of the National 
League had suddenly trebled ; and all this though for at 
least four years there had been nothing resembling general 
distress. 1 Whatever had been their faults and shortcomings, 
the Government rightly abandoned the policy of the last 
few months ; the Lord-Lieutenant, who had, perhaps, dallied 
with Parnell, and his Chief Secretary were recalled. At the 
opening of the Session of 1886, the Queen's Speech des- 
cribed the Union as "a fundamental law," and plainly 
pointed to renewed " coercion " ; and a trusted leader of 
the Conservative party, true, though very late, to its natural 
instincts, was sent to Ireland to carry out the intended 
measure. The occasion was not lost on Mr. Gladstone ; he 
could no longer act with Lord Salisbury in Irish affairs ; 
communications were probably opened with Parnell ; and 
through his support the Liberal party succeeded, though 
even now rent asunder, in bringing the existing Govern- 
ment to an end on a secondary issue of small importance. 
Mr. Gladstone addressed himself to form a new Ministry ; 
but the best of his followers stood aloof, and refused to 
accept the policy of Home Rule. His Government, with - 
only two or three exceptions, was composed of com- 
paratively unknown men ; and the great Liberal party, 
"that noble instrument of human progress," which for fifty 

1 Report of the Judges, vol. iv. p. 524. " The branches of the League 
trebled in 1885." Crime in 1889, 762 cases ; in 1885, 944 ; in 1886, 
1,055. Mr. Gladstone's language was no less significant. " The 
return to the ordinary law, I am afraid, cannot be said to have 
succeeded. Almost immediately after the lapse of the Crimes Act, 
boycotting increased fourfold. ... In October it had increased four- 
fold compared to what it was in the month of May " (Speech in the 
House of Commons, April 8, 1886). 

276 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

years had been dominant in the State, was completely, nay, 
perhaps finally, broken up. The mind of England, in the 
meantime, had pronounced against a revolutionary change 
in Ireland ; the powerful organs of English opinion, 
infinitely superior to the partisans of politics, in expressing 
the real will of the nation, severely condemned Mr. Glad- 
stone's conduct ; all but universally took the side of the 
Union ; and, teemed with reasoning, often of real cogency, 1 
pointing out the grave and numerous objections to Home 
Rule. The English press has seldom played so conspicuous 
a part ; it is interesting to observe what, about this time, was 
the view taken by the Clan na Gael, the paymasters of the 
National League and its chiefs, of the policy it assumed to 
be that of Mr. Gladstone : " The achievement of a National 
Parliament gives us a footing on Irish soil ; it gives us the 
agencies and instrumentalities of a Government de facto at 
the very commencement of the Irish struggle. It places the 
government of the land in the hands of our friends and 
brothers. It removes the Castle's rings, and gives us what 
we may well express as the plant of an armed revolution." 2 
Disregarding, however, the signs of the time, gathering 
ominously in from many sides, Mr. Gladstone persisted in 
his daring venture. The Bill for Home Rule was brought 
into the House of Commons on the 8th of April, 1886. Its 
author's speech was perspicuous, and, as was his wont, went 
thoroughly into the details of his subject ; it fully unfolded 
an elaborate and very complex scheme. But it was per- 
vaded by a doubting, nay, a despondent tone ; it presented 
a plan that was but "a choice of evils" ; it proposed a 
revolution, but completely failed to show either that this 
was a necessity of State, or that it would even accomplish 
its author's objects. We can only describe the measure in 
its broad outlines, and our comments must necessarily be 

1 The letters of the late Sir James Stephen on the whole Irish 
Question, on Home Rule, and on the proposed legislation of Mr. 
Gladstone are perhaps the ablest contributions that have appeared 
on these subjects. They were published in the Times. 

2 Report of the Judges, vol. iv., p. 542. 


very brief. A Legislative body was to be set up in Dublin ; 
and this, more properly called the Irish Parliament, was to 
be almost the Sovereign power in Ireland. This Assembly 
was to be divided into two Orders, the First composed of 
peers for a time and of men of substance elected on rather 
a high franchise ; the Second composed of members elected 
on the low household franchise already existing. The First 
Order was to be of one hundred and three members ; the 
Second of two hundred and four or two hundred and six. 
The two Orders, as a rule, were to sit together ; but the 
First Order was to have, for a short period, a veto on the 
decisions of the Second Order, this, it will be observed, being 
in an immense majority. The legislation of the Irish Parlia- 
ment was to be restricted in a great many ways ; it was not 
to extend to a number of Imperial, and even domestic, sub- 
jects. Especially the Irish Parliament was to have no right 
to impose the taxes of Customs and Excise, this being 
reserved to the Imperial Parliament. The legislation, too, 
of the Irish Parliament was to be subject to the veto of the 
Lord-Lieutenant, analogous to the old Royal veto, and 
possibly to the veto of the British Ministry — this, how- 
ever, being open to grave doubt — and the English Privy 
Council was to have the power, like that of the Supreme 
Court of the United States, to declare Acts of the Irish 
Parliament void if in excess of its constitutional rights. 
Subject, however, to these great limitations — far-reaching, 
complicated, and very stringent — the Irish Parliament was 
to rule Ireland ; it was empowered to enact and to repeal 
laws ; it was enabled to pass resolutions and to do every- 
thing which a real Parliament could do or attempt ; and it 
could practically appoint the Irish Executive, and direct and 
control it in all particulars, as the Imperial Parliament does 
for the British Executive. Ireland was to pay a contribution 
of nearly a fifteenth, that is, of not far from 7 per cent., to the 
general expenditure of the Empire. This would be a sum of 
about three million^ and a quarter sterling, with a temporary 
addition of one million ; and the whole revenue of Ireland 
was to pass through the hands of a high official of the 

278 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

Imperial Government, and to be applied to satisfy the 
claims of the British Treasury before the Irish Treasury 
could receive a shilling. 1 Finally, Ireland was to send no 
representatives to the Imperial Parliament, though this 
Assembly could heavily tax Ireland ; and the Imperial 
Parliament was probably to retain the nominal supremacy 
over the Irish Parliament, inseparable from its Imperial 
character, as it does in the case of the free British Colonies. 2 
The Home Rule Bill, as originally designed, was to be 
bound up with another measure, for the expropriation of 
the Irish landed gentry ; but this " Land Purchase Bill " 
was opposed in the Cabinet ; for reasons that may be readily 
conceived, it was resolved to separate the two measures. 
Mr. Gladstone brought in the Land Purchase Bill about 
a week after that for Home Rule ; his speech does not 
require special attention, save that it was apologetic and 
pitched in a not hopeful key, like that which he had already 
made ; but a word or two must be said on the measure, for 
it was the complement of the general scheme for the new 
system of governing Ireland and her affairs. Mr. Gladstone 
had declared, a few years before, that the land of Ireland 
was worth -£300,000,000 ; by a process of calculation he did 
not explain, he arrived at the conclusion that the rented 
Irish land, to be the subject of the Bill, was worth only 
-£113,000,000 ; but he distinctly announced that every Irish 
landlord should have a reasonable assurance, that if it was 
his wish to part with his lands, and to be bought out by the 
State, funds would be available within this limit. A sum, 
however, of .£50,000,000 only, to be raised by the creation 
of stock, was to be forthcoming in the first instance ; the 

1 This was a Receiver-General, to be appointed by the supplemental 
Land Purchase Bill, but certainly to receive the whole revenue of 
Ireland, in the first instance. Mr. Gladstone's language was precise : 
" Through whose hands all rents and all Irish revenues whatsoever 
must pass before a shilling can be applied to any Irish purpose 

2 Hansard should be studied for a complete account of the Bill, and 
for an excellent synopsis of it see Dicey's "England's Case against 
Home Rule," pp. 223-274. A very remarkable work. 


supplying the balance was to be left to future Parliaments, 
which, nevertheless, Mr. Gladstone had no doubt, would 
do what was just in this matter, and would honourably 
make up the -£63,000,000, should it become necessary to raise 
that sum. This was the more to be relied on, because it 
was " an obligation of duty and honour " not to leave Irish 
landlords in their existing position, when the Irish Parlia- 
ment should have been established ; and the only way to do 
this was to buy them out, to give them a fair price for their 
lands, and so to secure them a just indemnity. The method 
of working the arrangement out was simple, and need not 
be described at length. No landlord was to be compelled 
to part with an acre ; but if a landlord wished to sell his 
rented lands to the State, he was to receive from the fund 
to be provided then and thereafter, that is from the 
.£50,000,000 and the .£63,000,000, a sum equal to twenty 
years' purchase of the net rental, after many deductions and 
out-goings, and, so far as he was concerned, this closed the 
transaction. The Irish Parliament was to create a " State 
Authority " to purchase the lands disposed of in this way, 
and, in a few cases, to become their owner ; but the lands, in 
the great mass of instances, were to be transferred to the 
tenants upon them, according to the policy we have referred 
to ; and the tenants instead of the former rents, were to 
pay a terminable annuity only, at a much lower rate. The 
sums accumulated by these means were to be paid to the 
official mentioned before ; and these, of course, were to 
form a security for the advances made by the State to the 
landlords. 1 |T '■""'* 

The debates in the House of Commons on Mr. Gladstone's 
scheme were among the ablest ever heard in Parliament. 
The Opposition attacked the Home Rule Bill in detail, 
pointing out the mischiefs and vices inherent in it ; the 
Ministers were ready to concede anything, if the principle 
of an Irish Parliament were accepted ; but the distinctive 
feature of the controversy was, throughout, that no case for 

1 See Mr. Gladstone's speech of April 16, 1886, for a complete des- 
cription of the Bill. 

280 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

a Revolution in Ireland had been made, and that Home 
Rule could not possibly do the good that was expected from 
it. We cannot examine the speeches that were made ; we 
offer a few remarks of our own. Mr. Gladstone did not 
nearly solve the problem which he had repeatedly said 
must be solved before Parliament could even consider 
Home Rule. He prevented, indeed, the Irish Parliament, 
by his Bill, from legislating on many British and Imperial 
subjects ; he excluded Irish representatives from the Im- 
perial Parliament. But he did not, and evidently could not, 
wholly distinguish Irish from British and Imperial affairs, 
and, as a matter of fact, British and Imperial affairs could, 
in numberless instances, have been dealt with by the Irish 
Parliament. In truth, Imperial, British, and Irish affairs 
are indissolubly intertwined ; it is impossible to lay them 
out under separate heads, and to place these under the juris- 
diction of two different Parliaments ; on his own showing, 
therefore, Mr. Gladstone failed at the outset. Furthermore, 
even from the most favourable point of view, the projected 
scheme in no sense satisfied the conditions declared by its 
author to be essential. 1 It did not secure the Unity of the 
Empire, that is the Unity of the Three Kingdoms, as Mr. 
Gladstone certainly meant ; for it set up beside the Imperial 
Parliament a subordinate Parliament, which greatly weakened 
its power, and interfered with it in many ways ; the two, 
therefore, conceivably could come in conflict ; how, there- 
fore, could this arrangement secure unity ? Nor did it 
provide safeguards for the " minority," which Mr. Gladstone 
acknowledged would be placed in danger by the institution 
of an Irish Parliament ; this was the object of the Land 
Purchase Bill ; but a sum of .£50,000,000 would only buy out 
a comparatively small number of the Irish landlords, whose 
estates Mr. Gladstone had said were worth sixfold that sum ; 
it was idle to assume that Parliament would make good the 
balance ; 2 and the " minority " in danger, besides, was com- 

1 Speech of Mr. Gladstone, April 13, 1886. 

2 This was most ably shown by Lord Selborne in the Times of May 
3, 1886. 


posed of many and large classes other than Irish landlords. 
As to the remaining conditions, the debates conclusively 
proved that the proposed measure was not "founded upon 
the political equality of the three nations ; " that it did not 
create "an equitable distribution of Imperial burdens ; " and 
that it could not be in the " nature of a settlement ; " all 
the probabilities and facts contradicted its author's assump- 

Passing by, however, considerations like these, in part 
personal, in part abstract, the great and paramount question 
was, could Home Rule be a beneficent measure, as affairs 
stood in Great Britain and Ireland ? Mr. Gladstone and 
his followers all but assumed that the proposed policy would 
make England and Ireland friends, and would bring Irish 
social troubles to an end ; but they were unable, even 
plausibly, to show this ; in this respect they simply begged 
the question. Taking for granted, however, what was not 
the case, that there was no estrangement between the two 
countries, and had not been for a long series of years, and 
that the Irish were a law-abiding people, not separated by 
the divisions of ages, and contented and peaceful, at the 
existing time, would the scheme promote international 
concord, would it satisfy Ireland and conduce to her wel- 
fare, or would it, all but certainly, have an opposite tendency ? 
The Imperial Parliament and its executive had since the 
Union been absolute in Irish affairs ; they could impose 
their will, in a moment, on every part of the island ; but now 
this control would be practically taken away ; would not 
this necessarily provoke the resentment of England and" 
alienate her from Ireland though not alienated before ? The 
Irish Parliament, on the other hand, was forbidden to make 
laws on many subjects, Imperial, British, nay, even Irish ; 
but it was given the essential power of a Parliament, and 
the Irish executive would depend upon it ; it would, there- 
fore, have a Constitutional right to protest from the outset 
against these hindrances ; to pass resolutions on the prohibited 
questions, which probably would be of immense weight, and 
to employ its executive to further these ends ; the temptation 

282 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

to adopt this course would be great ; would all this make 
the relations of Great Britain and Ireland happy ? The 
provisions of the scheme, too, were in many respects ini- 
quitous, and would have probably combined all classes in 
Ireland against them. The staunchest friends of the British 
connection would not have tolerated an arrangement 
through which they would have no representatives in the Im- 
perial Parliament, and yet would he heavily taxed by it. 
Was it rational that the Irish Parliament should have nothing 
to do with Irish Customs and Excise ; and that the whole 
revenue of Ireland should be intercepted by a British official ? 
Was it just that Ireland should pay a great sum as a con- 
tribution to the charge of the Empire, and yet was to be 
shut out by law from Imperial affairs ; was not this a severe 
and degrading tribute ? For the rest the new Irish Con- 
stitution was essentially bad ; the suspensive veto of the 
First Order would have been like the suspensive veto of 
Louis XVI., in a new and democratic assembly ; and the 
legislation of this, almost from the nature of the case, would 
be improvident, wasteful, and leading to the bankruptcy of 
the State. 

But what were the actual facts of the case, the facts, 
which it needs not a Burke to tells us, determine the quali- 
ties of any given policy ? England was the dominant 
Power in the Three Kingdoms ; she had interests in Ireland 
of supreme importance, which it was essential to her safety 
to maintain ; she had millions of her race and faith in 
Ireland devotedly attached to the Union and all that the 
word implies ; she knew that Catholic Ireland was not her 
friend. Ireland was divided by old discords of blood and 
religion ; Protestant and Catholic Ireland had stood for 
ages apart ; a foreign conspiracy, hostile to British power, 
ruled large parts of the Irish Catholic masses ; and if the 
government of Ireland passed into its hands, as inevitably, 
under Home Rule, would be the case, for years it certainly 
would be a foe of England, and even more so of Protestant 
Ireland. In this position of affairs the intended measure 
would do infinite harm to Great Britain and Ireland, and 


for Ireland especially, would be a Pandora's box of evils. 
Take a very few instances of what would take place in 
events that, reasoning from experience, would probably 
happen. England declares war against a foreign Power, 
with which the Irish Parliament, filled with leaders of the 
National League and with Irish Catholics, would feel active 
and profound sympathy — Irish History can show many 
occasions of the kind ; the Irish Parliament and its Executive 
forbid Irishmen to serve in the British army, and encourage 
an armed Irish force to assist the enemy ; and, after opposing 
the war in a hundred ways, stop the contribution to the 
expense of the Empire. Or suppose again that an Irish 
Parliament, of the character we have just described, should, 
as in all probability would be the case, declare for Protection 
and condemn Free Trade ; or suppose that, as might be 
well expected, it should deny the right of the Imperial 
Parliament to raise Irish taxes, to interfere with or regulate 
Irish commerce, to lay an intrusive hand upon Irish revenue ; 
nay suppose that, like Tyrconnell's Parliament, it should 
debase the currency, or issue assignats, of what avail would 
be the paper safeguards of this scheme of Home Rule 
against such a course of conduct ? What would be the 
sentiment of England, in all these cases, what the attitude 
and policy of foreign Powers, ready to take advantage of a 
calamitous error ? As to the domestic legislation and 
administration of a Parliament of this type, they would con- 
sist in turning, in Ireland, things upside down ; in placing 
Protestant under the heel of Catholic Ireland ; in creating 
a Catholic Ascendency many times worse than Protestant 
Ascendency ever was ; and if, as is certain, Protestant 
Ireland would resist, this would either end in open civil 
war, or in a strife of classes protracted and fierce, followed 
by misery, desolation, and universal discontent. It may 
confidently be predicted that, in circumstances like these, 
England would either reconquer Ireland by force of arms, 
or possibly cut her off as a separate State ; for, as Peel had 
shown half a century before, separation was to be infinitely 
preferred to the kind of half independence, in which Ireland, 

284 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

under the mask of Constitutional forms, had been given the 
means of thwarting British power, of rebellion, and of the 
worst kind of misgovernment. 

Like all his legislation Mr. Gladstone's- scheme was 
marked with elaborate care and ingenious subtlety. But as 
a plan for changing the Constitution of these realms, for 
transforming the relations between Great Britain and Ireland, 
for setting up in Ireland a new order of things, it may be 
compared to the work of the Laputan architects, who built 
a house from the roof downwards ; it would have fallen to 
pieces in the surrounding element. It could have succeeded 
on one supposition only, that Englishmen and Irishmen 
were lifeless puppets, without the passions and wills of 
human beings ; but Englishmen and Irishmen being what 
they are, it would, especially in the circumstances of the 
time, have irritated and exasperated both peoples, and yet 
let the forces of Revolution loose. To have repealed the 
Union, and restored the old Irish Parliament, would have 
been a less dangerous and disastrous policy ; for, in that 
event, the spheres of the authority of the British and Irish 
Parliaments would have been defined by ancient and well- 
known precedents ; there would have been an Irish House 
of Lords as a restraining influence ; above all, the Irish 
Parliament would not have been cabined and confined, as 
it was under the proposed arrangement, nor tempted to 
break its Constitutional bounds ; and the Irish Executive 
could, comparatively, have done little mischief. Nor is 
anything more certain than that Mr. Gladstone had grave 
apprehensions as to his own policy. His speeches betray 
misgivings and fears ; his scheme revealed distrust of Ireland 
from beginning to end. He evidently thought that the Irish 
Parliament would not work well with the Imperial Parlia- 
ment, or be loyal to the British connection, for, w r hile he 
gave it the means of doing infinite wrong, and of defying 
and thwarting Imperial power, he circumscribed it in every 
direction, and shackled it in harsh and degrading fetters. 
He evidently thought that the men in power in Ireland 
might repudiate her obligations to Great Britain ; else why 


did he withhold from the Irish Parliament the right of 
imposing the most important taxes, why did he insist that a 
Receiver-General was to lay hand on every farthing of Irish 
revenue ? He must have believed that the Irish Parliament 
and its Executive would make victims of the Irish landed 
gentry, and simply extirpate them root and branch ; for 
otherwise he would never have called on the British tax- 
payer to make himself liable for an enormous charge, which, 
if his assurances were to be kept, would have ultimately been 
not .£50,000,000, or -£113,000,000, but from .£150,000,000, 
to ^200,000,000, according to every calculation but his own. 
Nor was it the least sign of this profound distrust, that Irish 
judges and other officials were, under his Bill, to be per- 
mitted to retire from their posts, on their full pensions ; it 
was assumed that they could not do their duty,, or even 
be in safety, under the new Irish Government. 

The Home Rule Bill would assuredly have been con- 
demned by every Irishman who had risen to eminence as a 
patriot in the preceding century and a half. It would have 
aroused the " sceva indignatio " of Swift, would have 
shrivelled up under the fire of Grattan, would have been 
treated by O'Connell with contemptuous scorn. Parnell's 
attitude to it was characteristic ; he pointed out clearly its 
manifold defects ; this reserve enabled him to disavow it if 
he pleased ; he then accepted it, with his obedient followers, 
the acceptance giving Mr. Gladstone enthusiastic joy. It 
has long ago been known that this profession was a mere 
pretence, and that the measure was regarded as but "a 
Parliamentary hit," by the Irish leader, and those who went 
in his train ; but what was more significant were the undis- 
guised sentiments of the American Fenians of almost all 
kinds, on whom the movement in Ireland depended for 
support. At a meeting, at which Davitt was present, held 
in the second week of August, 1886, and soon followed by 
a great Convention called by the Clan na Gael and their 
principal chiefs, to which Parnell sent envoys, chosen from 
allies in Parliament, the Chairman of the Assembly described 
the Home Rule scheme as wholly insufficient to meet the 

286 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

demands of Ireland, or to satisfy her aspirations or hopes ; z 
and Parnell never repudiated this plain language ; the 
National League, indeed", otherwise would soon have come 
to an end. Meanwhile Mr. Gladstone had strained every 
nerve to carry into effect his Home Rule scheme ; but not- 
withstanding his immense authority, and the strong and 
sometimes perilous ties of party, his efforts and those of his 
lieutenants, failed. The Second Reading of the Home Rule 
Bill was rejected by a majority of thirty votes, in a House 
of Commons crowded beyond example ; but these figures 
did not represent the real state of opinion ; John Bright 
declared that not twenty English members were in favour 
of a measure almost universally condemned. The Land 
Purchase Bill was necessarily dropped ; but this discom- 
fiture did not lessen Mr. Gladstone's zeal on behalf of the 
cause he had lately found to be that of " sacred justice." 
The Parliament, convened but a few months before, was 
dissolved in order to test the judgment of the Electorate on 
the new Irish policy ; and Mr. Gladstone exerted himself to 
the utmost to further the measure on which he had staked 
his fortunes. But the mind of England pronounced against 
him ; especially that strong, moderate and well-informed 
opinion, superior to partisan politics, which has always 
proved irresistible at grave conjunctures ; this resented 
tergiversation almost without a parallel ; was indignant that 
British interests had been set at naught, in a Parliament 
assembled to deal with them, and fully appreciated the 

1 Speech of John F. Finerty reported in " The Queen's Enemies in 
America," a tract well worth reading. " We have no desire to force the 
hand of Parnell or to drive the Irish people into war unprepared ; all that 
we demand is that no leader of the Irish people who is supposed to speak 
for them shall commit himself or them toiaccepting as a final settlement 
bills of relief unworthy of the dignity of Ireland's national demand. 
We are perfectly willing to see them accept such bills as that of Glad- 
stone as a settlement on account, but that must not be accepted as 
closing the transaction. . . . We admit that it may be good policy on 
the part of Mr. Davitt and of Mr. Parnell to be what is called moderate 
in tone, but for us, who represent the National idea of the Irish people, 
it would be worse than folly to conceal our sentiments. We recognise 
that Ireland is incapable of fighting at present." 


dangers and evils of Home Rule for Ireland. At the 
General Election that followed, England and Scotland 
returned about three hundred and seventy-five members, 
composed of Convervatives and old Liberals, against about 
a hundred and ninety advocates of Home Rule ; no such 
national verdict had been found since the rejection of the 
India Bill of Fox, and the rout of the Coalition in 1784. 
Ireland sent to Westminster eighty-four members, elected 
through the influences before referred to, to follow in the 
wake of Parnell ; the Irish representatives who supported 
the Union were not more than nineteen in number ; but 
this was no criterion of the strength of the two parties, still 
less of their true position in the State. 

After this crushing defeat Mr. Gladstone resigned ; Lord 
Salisbury became Prime Minister again. The late crisis had 
developed a state of things resembling the Whig Secession 
of 1793 ; the leaders of the old Liberals were urged to take 
office ; but the time for a complete fusion of parties had 
not yet come ; the Government was a purely Conservative 
Government. It had been predicted that the rejection of 
the Home Rule Bill would cause Catholic Ireland to rise 
in the frenzy of despair ; but though the National League 
was daily becoming more powerful, scarcely a sign of 
discontent on this ground appeared ; as had been seen, over 
and over again, there was no general or violent movement 
against the Union, the only real movement in Ireland, 
indeed, of a political kind, was the opposite way ; Protestant 
Ulster, to a man, had declared for the Union, and unhappy 
scenes of riot and trouble followed, to be condemned, no 
doubt, but not the less significant of the sentiments of a 
noble Province, half rebellious in the past, but, for many 
long years in its best and most energetic elements, attached 
heart and soul to the British connection. The conspiracy, 
meanwhile, that since 1879 had been the paramount cause 
of Irish disorder, had been actively at work in the United 
States, and found aliments in Ireland that gave it new life. 
The Convention, to which we have before referred, was 
held at Chicago in the third week of August ; it was a huge 

288 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

gathering of Irish Fenians of every type ; its proceedings 
were very characteristic of the movement, of which Parnell 
had long been the Parliamentary head. The extreme party 
and the leaders of the Clan na Gael consented, though 
reluctantly, that Resolutions should pass in favour of the 
Home Rule policy, and offering thanks to Mr. Gladstone 
and Parnell ; but the speeches of several of these men were 
of the most incendiary kind ; and two of Parnell's envoys, 
whose object was to collect funds, expressed themselves in 
hardly less meaning language, one remarking that it was 
" our duty to make the government of Ireland by England 
an impossibility." * At the same time an accident had 
strengthened the National League in Ireland, and had in- 
creased the social troubles springing from the land. The 
Land Commission had reduced rents wholesale, and so 
had the great majority of the Irish landlords ; but there had 
been a sudden and great fall of agricultural prices ; and 
though there was nothing like the distress of 1879, Ireland 
was suffering, if in a less degree, from the depression of 
rural industry which prevailed in England, Scotland, and 
indeed in other countries. The payment of rent, in a word, 
had become difficult ; and this, in the existing state of 
Ireland, was an incentive to a fresh agrarian movement. 

The new Parliament had met towards the end of August ; 
the Conservatives and old Liberals, nearly combined, were 
known by the name of the Unionist party. The Irish vote, 
by the direction of Parnell, reversing the policy he had 
adopted the year before, had been given to Mr. Gladstone 
at the late Election ; Mr. Gladstone had become more 
ardent for Home Rule than ever ; Parnell with his band, 
and Mr. Gladstone's followers, may be fitly described as 
Anti-Unionists. Parnell, holding the threads of the con- 
spiracy abroad and at home, took advantage of the partial 
distress in Ireland to renew the attack on the Irish landlords, 
which, indeed, had never completely ceased ; he brought in 
a Bill, which would have annulled the settlement, such as 
it was, made by the Land Act of 1881, and would have 
1 See "The Queen's Enemies in America," ante, pp. 31, 6$. 


practically reduced rents by one half ; and Mr. Gladstone, 
the author of the Act in question, gave this monstrous 
proposal a qualified assent. The Bill, however, was peremp- 
torily rejected by the House of Commons ; and, just as in 
the case of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, the 
rejection gave Parnell the opportunity he was, doubtless, 
seeking, that is, as one of his satellites had announced at 
Chicago, to make " an impossibility " of British rule in 
Ireland. The National League, we have seen, had, for 
many months, especially since " coercion " had come to an 
end, been making in Ireland alarming progress ; it had 
gradually spread over and taken possession of nearly the 
same area as the parent League ; it had long ago lost its 
constitutional aspect ; it had become the director, like the 
Land League, of a rebellious and a socialistic movement. 
Nor did its methods differ widely from those of its proto- 
type ; its local leaders, indeed, were often of the middle 
class, and had been largely composed of the Irish Catholic 
clergy ; it was less stained than the Land League with 
crime, and with open and atrocious outrage ; but it was 
an organisation of the same kind ; and it enforced its 
authority, like the Land League, by boycotting, intimidation, 
and widespread oppression, especially of the humbler 
classes. The concentrated force of the National League 
was now turned against the landed gentry, and through 
them, as had been the case before, against the whole system 
of Irish Government. Once more the peasantry, in some 
counties, were commanded to strike against the payment 
of rent ; and once more the behests of the League were to 
have the terrible sanction of the well-known penalties. The 
mode of operations adopted at this time was, however, more 
ingenious, and perhaps more potent than those which had 
been tried before ; tenants were ordered to demand huge 
reductions of rent ; and if the landlords refused compliance, 
the rents were to be paid into what was called the " war 
chest," and to be held by agents selected by the League in 
order to prevent compromise or backsliding. This " Plan 
of Campaign " was to have the support of the old methods, 


290 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

an interdict placed on evicted farms, the terrorism of " land 
grabbers," and " traitors" to the cause, intimidation of all 
kinds, and above all "boycotting," which had been perfected 
after a long experience. By these means evictions would 
necessarily be increased ; whole districts would be violently 
disturbed ; a war of classes would be the result ; the arm of 
the law would be largely paralysed ; and Government, in 
many places, would be reduced to impotence. 1 

Parnell certainly sanctioned these proceedings, but he did 
not directly take part in them ; he had put on his con- 
stitutional garb, and become an ally of Mr. Gladstone ; the 
Plan of Campaign, indeed, was not of his invention. By 
the first months of 1887, the conspiracy, working through 
the National League, had become dominant in many 
districts, within the limits in which the Land League had 
prevailed. Its evil influences were, no doubt, seconded, as 
had happened in 1879-80, by the depression of agriculture, 
only too general ; but they did not owe their origin to 
this cause ; they were, in no sense, to be excused by it. 
The Land war of 1880-82 was renewed ; the incidents that 
followed were in some respects the same ; but there were 
marked differences that may be briefly noticed. The Plan 
of Campaign was not applied in its completeness to many 
estates, for the peasantry could not be induced to pay over 
their rents, in numerous instances, to servants of the League, 
in spite of the intimidation brought to bear on them — a 

1 The strike against rent in Ireland, of which the Plan of Campaign 
was the most elaborate specimen, has been compared by apologists to 
Trades Union strikes, and "boycotting" to "picketing." There is, as 
Parnell no doubt intended, a superficial resemblance ; but the difference 
is plain and conspicuous. The artisan strikes, so to speak, with his own 
labour ; he pledges this and fights his employer at his own risk ; the 
Irish peasant strikes with his landlord's rent, stakes nothing of his 
own, and acts as a robber. " Boycotting," too, is essentially different 
from " picketing," and was carried out in Ireland through a system of 
crime and terrorism, of which " picketing " in England was never guilty. 
No wonder that John Bright indignantly remarked, that the comparison 
" insulted the great mass of the working men of England, who had no 
direct purpose of dishonesty or fraud, or any of the odious crimes," 
which had been committed in Ireland. 


circumstance of no small significance ; but wherever it was 
applied there was a bitter struggle occasionally breaking out 
in crime and outrage, occasionally marked with grotesque 
features. In hundreds of cases, however, there was a strike 
against rent, conducted by the local leaders of the League, 
and more or less backed by the occupiers of the soil ; ■ and 
the results were like those which had been seen before. 
Some of the gentry yielded ; many resisted ; evictions, as a 
matter of course, multiplied ; and lawlessness, culminating 
in social anarchy, extended rapidly over an increasing area. 
There was a considerable outburst of savage disorder ; but 
the distinctive feature of this effort of the League was the 
extraordinary, and too often the successful spread of " boy- 
cotting" and its cruel and base work. This system of 
organised terror was carried out with an effective force and 
a dexterity before unknown ; it was aptly compared to a 
pestilence walking in darkness, bringing misery and even 
death to numbers of homes, and blighting industry and 
order in hundreds of places. Officials of the Government 
of all kinds, juries, traders, and landlords were placed under 
the ban ; but, as had occurred before, the evil power of this 
interdict was exercised more widely, and with far greater 
severity upon the poorer classes. By this time there had 
been a thousand instances of agrarian crime ; five thousand 
unhappy beings had been " boycotted " ; and nearly a 
thousand had been placed under the protection of the 
police. Protestant Ulster as before held angrily aloof ; but 
parts of Ireland had fallen into a state resembling that of 
the Provinces of France, where the rule of Jacobinism had 
supplanted the regular Government. Many of the Irish 
Catholic clergy, it must be said with regret, had made 
themselves morally responsible for this position of affairs, 
having directly joined in the operations of the League. 

History will probably say that Lord Salisbury's Govern- 
ment ought to have sought powers when Parliament met, 
to cope effectually with the anarchic disorder already mani- 

1 Attempts have been made to show that the strike was aimed at bad 
landlords only. Such statements are absolutely false. 

292 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

fest in many parts of Ireland. It adopted, however, a 
different course ; and, indeed, endeavoured for some months 
to temporise with the National League, and even to mitigate 
the increasing land war by attempts to stop or to retard 
evictions, conduct reprobated by a most distinguished Irish 
judge. Nevertheless, it quickly abandoned a hopeless policy 
when the critical state of Ireland had become apparent ; 
and at the opening of the Session of i§§7, the office of 
Chief Secretary fortunately devolved on a capable and 
resolute man of action. Mr.,.Balfour had not yet risen to 
a very high place in politics, though his ability was already 
known ; but his government of Ireland was marked by 
qualities which soon placed him in the foremost rank of 
our statesmen. He at once brought in a Bill of so-called 
" coercion," which, compared to the formidable Act of five 
years before, was infinitely less severe and drastic ; but 
which, he rightly judged, would prove sufficient if steadily 
enforced. This measure contained scarcely a single pro- 
vision which could be deemed unconstitutional in a proper 
sense ; * its principal features were that it_Jransferrejd to 
magistrates the cognisance over the classes of crime through 
whicrT~ffie National League maintained its power, from 
juries which, as affairs stood, had almost ceased to perform 
their functions, owing to the intimidation widely prevailing ; 
and that it enabled the Irish Executive to put down 
Associations it had proclaimed as " dangerous," and as had 
been enacted in 1882, to institute secret inquiries for the 
discovery of crime. But it certainly created no new offences 
as the Act of 1882 had done ; it had not an arbitrary or a 
vindictive character, and though it was not limited in point 
of time, it was little more, save in a few particulars, than an 
extension of the summary powers of magistrates, in circum- 
stances that justified, nay, called for it. It might have been 
expected that Mr. Gladstone and the statesmen who had 
designed u coercion " tenfold more harsh, would not have 

1 A clause for transferring the trial of grave crimes from Ireland to 
England, that might fairly be considered unconstitutional and unjust,, 
was dropped. 


opposed a measure of this kind, especially as the responsible 
Government had declared that law and order in Ireland 
could not exist without it. But the conversion to Home 
Rule had brought strange things with it ; Mr. Gladstone 
and his followers threw in their lot with Parnell ; and the 
spectacle was seen for the first time in the century of a 
Constitutional Opposition acting in concert with a revolu- 
tionary and socialistic faction, which had shown itself to 
be an enemy of the State, and to have promoted a con- 
spiracy against its power. The Bill was resisted for nearly 
three months by methods of obstruction before unparalleled ; 
and it became necessary to put in force the closure — a 
change in the procedure of the House of Commons, in 
itself pernicious, but found to be needed, owing to the 
conduct of Parnell and his band on previous occasions — 
with a severity hitherto without a precedent. The House, 
however, had made up its mind that the measure should 
pass ; it became law by large majorities of votes 

A conflict between the powers of Government and of 
lawless anarchy ere long followed. Parnell kept studiously 
away ; but some of his Parliamentary band flung them- 
selves into the ranks of the National League, and en- 
deavoured to maintain an unequal fight, here and there by 
violent, here and there by ridiculous methods. English 
Radicalism, shattered in 1886, pretended to join in a reckless 
crusade ; flights of sympathisers landed on the Irish shores 
to denounce " Balfour's atrocious tyranny " ; ponderous 
speeches were made in Parliament and elsewhere, con- 
demning the administration of the law that had just been 
enacted. Mr. Gladstone, of course, was easily supreme ; 
he laboured to change the plain meaning of words ; the 
" boycotting " he had described as a base crime was now 
merely " exclusive dealing " ; the National League now the 
same as the Land League of old, was an innocent combina- 
tion to protect the peasantry, not an organisation formed to 
overthrow the State ; and the orator thundered against the 
men in power at the Castle ; held up to -execration ministers 
of law and justice, singling out more than one by name 

294 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

for invective ; and especially attacked the Constabulary 
force, the mainstay of order and law in Ireland. At this 
grave conjuncture, in short, he acted as no Englishman 
has ventured to act since Fox had taken the side of Revo- 
lutionary France in its struggle with England in 1793-8, 
and since he had found excuses for Jacobin crime and 
wickedness ; and this conduct, no doubt to be largely 
ascribed to impetuosity carried beyond all bounds, and to 
the inexperience of Irish affairs apparent throughout Mr. 
Gladstone's career, was strongly censured by the best of 
the old Liberals, and made reconciliation for ever hopeless. x 
Yet notwithstanding these efforts of faction and party, as 
to which it was pointedly said that Mr. Gladstone had tried, 
like his Irish allies, to make the government of Ireland, in 
its existing form, " impossible," the law was successfully 
carried out and prevailed ; the National League was sup- 
pressed as the Land League had been ; and the conspiracy, 
though it continued to receive ample funds from America as 
before, was baffled in the space of about eighteen months, 
as in had been baffled in 1882-4. Agrarian crime was 
effectually kept under ; the cases of " boycotting " were 
soon reduced by a half, and within three years had almost 
disappeared ; the ascendency of the Government was 
restored ; the rule of law was again made to triumph ; and all 
this was done with comparatively little " coercion," because 
it was felt that the Irish Executive was firm in its purpose. 
Mr. Balfour, and those who acted with him, deserve high 
praise ; but they were assisted in their arduous task by a very 
powerful influence. Rome had condemned the Land League 
before, but when it had become notorious that the Irish 
priesthood had largely joined the National League, an envoy 
from the Vatican was sent to Ireland : and the anathema of 
the Holy See was pronounced on "boycotting and the 
Plan of Campaign." The Irish Catholic clergy fell off from 
the League in scores ; but, unhappily, not before one priest 
certainly had become implicated in a very grave crime. 

1 See the speeches of Mr. Goschen and of Lord Hartington in 1887 
passim, not to refer to many others. 


The Government, meanwhile, had taken another step on 
the path of agrarian change in Ireland. In the Land Act T 
of 1 88 1, as in that of 1870, Mr. Gladstone, we have seen, ' 
had shown a preference for English compared to Irish 
tenures ; he had excluded leaseholders from a right to the 
"Three F.'s," and this, though an intelligible, was not a just 
distinction, in the existing circumstances of the Irish land. 
An Act, passed in the Session of 1887, allowed leaseholders 
of all ordinary kinds to obtain the benefits given by the Act 
of 1881 ; it even enabled a middleman, a strange license, 
whose rent had been reduced below his own chief rent, 
to creep out of his contract with a superior landlord. The 
Act also contained provisions making the process of eviction 
less odious, and accelerating the time for securing "fair 
rents " ; it would have effected a useful composition for 
arrears of rent but for the clamour of leaders of the 
National League, in the interests of local usurers, often 
clients of the League ; but it partially lessened the hardship 
of arrears ; and it made temporary reductions of judicial 
rents in order to meet the undoubted difficulties of these 
years. The Act was not of very great importance ; on the 
principles of the legislation on which it was based, it may, 
for the most part, be justified ; but it was another encroach- 
ment on the rights of Irish landlords, and it has created 
another claim for the compensation, which is their due, if 
Parliamentary assurances are to be of any avail. The 
Land Commission, of course, cut down the rents of lease- 
holders as they had cut down all other rents ; it has been 
contended that this proceeding, coupled with the reduction - 
of judicial rents, was the only true cause that Irish disorder 
was quelled in a comparatively short space of time. This, 
nevertheless, is a complete delusion ; these measures may 
have had some influence ; but the number of leaseholders 
affected by the Act, and who sought for the advantages of 
the "Three F.'s," was inconsiderable for a long period ; the 
reductions of the judicial rents were small ; these circum- 
stances could not have had a marked effect during the 
short contest of 1887-89. The leaders of the National 

296 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

League, besides, treated the new law with the contempt with 
which they had treated the great measure of 1881 ; and, as 
a matter of fact, the so-called reforms which have wrought 
the ruin of hundreds of the Irish gentry, and have evolved 
a land system of the very worst type, have had hardly any 
real effect on a movement which, it must be borne in mind, 
did not spring up in Ireland, but was the offspring of a 
conspiracy wholly of foreign origin. 

A remarkable train of incidents in these years threw a 
striking and lurid light on the affairs of Ireland, since the 
movement directed by Parnell had been set on foot. While 
the Crimes Act, as it was called, of 1887, was slowly making 
its way through Parliament, the Times newspaper published 
a series of essays pointing out the relations that had long 
existed between the extreme Fenians in the United States, 
and the leaders of the Land and National Leagues, and 
charging Parnell and his followers with grave misdeeds ; 
and this great exponent of English opinion indignantly 
demanded if Mr. Gladstone had made a political alliance 
with this manner of men. A short time afterwards the 
Times gave to the world copies of letters alleged to have 
been in Parnell's hand, and all but approving of the murders 
in the Phoenix Park, at least of the murder of Thomas Burke ; 
it challenged a judicial inquiry upon the subject. Parnell 
simply declared that the letters were forged, and refused to 
accept the challenge of the Times, but after the lapse of a 
year, an accident caused public opinion to turn to the con- 
troversy again, and to insist that a full investigation should 
be made. A special Commission, composed of three 
English judges, was appointed by Statute to inquire into 
the series of charges made by the Times, and to report the 
conclusions they found to Parliament ; this tribunal held 
its sittings during many months, and probed the matters on 
issue to the very bottom ; the voluminous evidence collected 
is the best extant commentary on the whole troubled period 
of Irish history from 1879 to 1886. We have already 
indicated, in part, the decisions made by the judges — men 
of intelligence and character of the highest order ; but, at 


the risk of repetition, we bring together the main findings of 
this notable verdict, premising that the Times had not dealt 
with the political side of the agrarian movement, and did 
not prefer any charges of treason, that the lesser agents of 
the Land and the National Leagues were not brought before 
the Court at all, and that the inquiry, therefore, was in these 
respects limited. Notwithstanding this, a more damning 
sentence was never pronounced on a body of public men. 
One of the accused persons was wholly acquitted ; but all 
the others were more or less condemned for offences of no 
ordinary kind. It was proved that some, when they joined 
the Land League, sought " to bring about the independence 
of Ireland as a separate nation " ; and that all conspired to 
prevent " the payment of agricultural rents," in order to 
drive out of the country the Irish landlords, styled by the 
conspirators the " English garrison." It was proved that 
these men " disseminated the Irish World," and newspapers 
of this kind ; that if they did not directly incite to crime 
they incited to the " intimidation " that produced crime ; 
and that, excepting Davitt and some others, they did not 
denounce the " intimidation " which had this effect to their 
undoubted knowledge. Finally, it was found that these men 
promoted the defence of " agrarian crime " ; that they paid 
money to compensate criminals of this class ; that they 
received funds through the notorious Patrick Ford, the 
advocate of dynamite before referred to ; and that, as we 
have said, they " invited and obtained the assistance of the 
Clan na Gael " and similar bodies of worthies, and, in order 
to obtain it, kept a judicious silence. 1 

The verdict of the judges on several minor charges was 
" not proven," or " not guilty " ; the accused are entitled, of 
course, to the benefit. It is necessary to say a very few 
words on another charge intrinsically not important, but 
important in the circumstances of the case, and that has 
caused much confusion of thought and deception. The 
Times alleged that Parnell and some of his followers 
did, indeed, occasionally "denounce" crime, but did so 
1 Report of the Judges, vol. iv. pp. 544-5. 

2 98 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

insincerely, and with the intention to " make their support- 
ers " think the " denunciations not sincere " ; the principal 
proofs of this were the letters which, we have said, condoned 
the Phoenix Park tragedy, and were stated to have been in 
Parnell's writing. It was proved beyond doubt that the 
letters were not in Parnell's hand, and that they were 
wickedly forged by a man at one time the owner of a 
journal sold to the Land League ; this villain killed himself 
when the discovery was made ; and Parnell obtained a 
complete acquittal on this charge. The charge, however, we 
repeat, was a minor one in itself ; but it involved a personal 
accusation of great gravity ; and Mr. Gladstone and his 
followers made the acquittal an occasion for insisting that 
all the charges had either failed or were of no weight, and 
that any other findings of the judges might be dismissed as 
worthless, though the whole verdict had not yet been pro- 
nounced. The House of Commons rang with the shouts 
of these partisans — little knowing what time was soon to 
bring forth — when Parnell entered it, after it had been 
shown that the letters were forged ; the unreflecting multi- 
tude, always inclined to sympathise with any one it believes 
is wronged, and to look superficially at complex questions 
requiring attention to be understood, very largely thought 
that an adverse verdict on the capital facts of a great inquiry 
involving issues of extreme gravity, was of no avail, decisive 
as it was, because Parnell had not been consenting to the 
Phoenix Park murders ! Nothing could be more illogical and 
absurd, especially if it is borne in mind that, on the question 
of insincerity, there was a great deal in the evidence before 
the commission to condemn Parnell. The judges refused 
to believe him more than once on his oath ; and it was 
clearly proved that, on one occasion at least, he deceived 
the House of Commons of set purpose. 1 As to the 
judgment of thinking and well-informed persons on the 
verdict given by the Commission, it has thus been summed 
up ; the sound opinion of Englishmen fully concurred : — 
" The Report unveils Parnellism to the whole world, and 
1 Evidence of the Commission, vol. iv. p. 303. 


discovers to us a movement which, under the outward show 
of legality, is based on conspiracy, and which seeks to 
effect constitutional changes, by weakening the executive, 
and defying the law of the nation. The respondents, we 
now know, are conspirators ; they are not the advocates of 
reform, but the leaders for revolution." 1 

The acquittal of Parnell, however, on a personal charge 
improved his position in the House of Commons, always 
generously disposed to its own members, and even made 
him popular, in a certain sense, in England. By this time 
his alliance with Mr. Gladstone was complete ; the new 
Liberals and the band of Parnell formed a Parliamentary 
Opposition, voting together ; and Parnell turned his advan- 
tage to excellent account. He had conferences with Mr. 
Gladstone about Home Rule, and possibly agreed to some 
general scheme ; he occasionally appeared at public 
meetings in England, and, with chosen lieutenants, spoke in 
dulcet tones of the international concord, and the " Union 
of Hearts," which would follow when Ireland had obtained 
" self-government." His attitude, as regards Ireland, was 
very much the same ; he condemned " boycotting " and the 
u Plan of Campaign," especially when the Crimes Act was 
doing its work ; he preached moderation to the National 
League ; and though he made no real impression on 
Irishmen who could think, by his patriotic appeals, or on 
the classes which had property to lose, he attracted a few 
Protestants into the ranks of his party, a striking proof of 
his political craft. In the autumn of 1890 his prospects 
seemed full of promise; but the Nemesis of duplicity/ 
almost without a parallel, and of conspiracy veiled behind 
a mask was at hand ; he suddenly toppled down in complete 

Proceedings in the Divorce Court taken against him by 
the friend who had negotiated the " Kilmainham Treaty," 
proved that socially, as well as politically, he was a false- 

1 "The Verdict,' by A. V. Dicey, 1890. This masterly tract should 
be read. See also the " Report of the Special Commission," by Vindex, 
Law Review, Nov. 1890. 

300 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

hearted man ; the decree pronounced against him was a 
signal rebuke to his conduct. Events followed of curious 
and dramatic interest, that have ever since had an influence 
on the affairs of Ireland. For about a week it seemed as if 
the matter of the divorce would be little more than a nine 
days' wonder, and that Parnell's position as the leader of a 
party, and a public man of no ordinary importance, had not 
been shaken. Mr. Gladstone, his ally, remained silent ; 
the Irish Catholic prelates, the self-named champions "of 
religion and morals," made no sign ; the Parliamentary and 
other satellites of Parnell declared enthusiastically in favour 
of their chief, at a great and representative meeting held 
in Dublin. At last, however, what is called the " Noncon- 
formist conscience " showed that it had been pricked by the 
recent scandal ; Parnell was denounced from a hundred 
English dissenting pulpits ; and Mr. Gladstone, always 
sensitive to popular cries, gave it to be understood that it 
would be fatal to the cause of Home Rule should 
Parnell remain at the head of his party " at the present 
moment." This view was communicated to Parnell's 
followers assembled at Westminster for the approaching 
Session ; and the Irish Dictator at once showed of what 
stuff he was made, and revealed himself in his true character. 
Disregarding honourable confidences of every kind he 
announced that Mr. Gladstone's coming project of Home 
Rule was a mere sham and a delusive measure ; he called 
on the " Irish People " to stand by " their chief " ; he defied 
traitors and fools to attempt to depose him. Ere long a 
majority of Parnell's band, throwing their late pledges and 
promises to the winds, made up their minds to ask him to 
resign the leadership ; his only reply was that " if he was 
to be sold, he was to be sold for value " ; and, with singular 
adroitness, he induced them to approach Mr. Gladstone 
and to inquire of him, if he was prepared to bring in a 
measure of Home Rule, with much larger concessions than 
that of 1886. The object of this policy is apparent ; Mr. 
Gladstone, of course, refused to treat ; scenes of recrimina- 
tion and fury ensued ; and ultimately the main body of the 


adherents of Parnell broke away from the leader they had 
half worshipped for years, though they did not openly dare 
to thrust him aside. 

In unscrupulously playing this artful game, Parnell 
believed that he had put his recreant followers in the wrong, 
and that he would still retain his position as the " uncrowned 
king." They had been the dupes and instruments of a 
slippery statesman, who would not give them anything like 
a pledge ; he alone was the apostle of real Home Rule ; the 
Ireland of the National League would rally around him. 
But Parnell had not reckoned with a mighty and organised 
power, the authority of which has, at all times, been well-nigh 
supreme in Catholic Ireland. The heads of the Irish 
Catholic Church had probably never trusted Parnell ; he 
was a Protestant, and in league w T ith Fenians, with whom 
they never had the slightest sympathy ; they at last followed 
in the wake of English Dissenters, and issued a manifesto 
against the threatened Dictator. This strengthened the 
majority which had fallen away from him ; and it is now 
known that many in this servile band had long resented 
the imperious conduct of their chief, and were bitterly 
though secretly hostile to him ; and, as in the case of 
Robespierre and the men of Thermidor, they welcomed the 
opportunity for a decisive rupture. Parnell, however, 
retained his haughty self-confidence ; a small body of 
faithful dependents still clung to him ; he went to Ireland 
to make a desperate effort on his own behalf, in the name of 
" Irish Nationality," and phrases of the kind. He succeeded 
in assembling great gatherings, composed mainly of the' 
mobs of the towns ; he addressed these in impassioned 
language ; his speeches disclosed his strange and double- 
dealing nature. The moderate politician who had accepted 
the Home Rule Bill of 1886, repudiated that measure as mere 
imposture ; the friend of Mr. Gladstone and of the new 
Liberals had no scurrilous words bad enough for them ; the 
prudent leader, who had lately checked the National League, 
was now ready to let Revolution loose, and declared that 
Ireland's " independence" had been the object of his life. As 

302 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

for those who had deserted him, they were the scum of 
the earth, knaves and reprobates of the worst kind ; and here 
it may be admitted he was not wholly in the wrong ; few 
leaders have been so suddenly and basely betrayed. The 
whole power, however, of the Catholic priesthood was 
concentrated against the defeated chief ; Catholic Ireland 
fell away from him ; election after election proved adverse 
to his hopes ; his late followers vied with each other in 
trampling him down, and in covering him with the 
foulest abuse. After a fruitless struggle of five or six 
months, his strength suddenly gave way, and he soon died ; 
if not undeserved, the end of few public men has been so 
dismal and dark a tragedy. History has yet to say her last 
word upon him ; but Parnell essentially was a conspirator ; 
and no one, perhaps, has been so successful in combining a 
conspiracy hatched abroad with a Parliamentary, but most 
dangerous movement at home. Parnell cannot be called, in 
a true sense, a statesman ; but certainly he had statesman- 
like views ; some of these on Irish affairs are of no doubtful 
value. For the rest he was a natural ruler of men ; in sheer 
force of character he towered, not only over the submissive 
band which crawled at his feet, but over the English poli- 
ticians he outwitted and deceived. Unquestionably, however, 
had he had to deal with a Minister different from Mr. 
Gladstone, he would never have achieved what he did ; 
more than one of the English Ministers of this century 
would probably have cut short his career. That he did his 
country good may be, perhaps, admitted ; but when we 
weigh the doubtful good against the enormous evil, it is 
difficult to give him a word of praise. 

In 1890 another attempt was made to effect a great 
change in the Irish land system. For a long time, we 
have seen, it had been the policy of John Bright and 
other statesmen to try to make tenants in Ireland owners 
of the lands they held. This had been aimed at in the 
Land Acts of 1878 and 1881 ; but it had never been con- 
templated in those days that if the State made advances 
for this purpose the tenants should not pay part of the 


purchase moneys. Since Irish tenures had been trans- \ 
formed by the " Three F's " it has been contended by the 
Conservative party that this " created " in Ireland a kind of 
" dual ownership " in the land, assumed to be an intolerable 
thing, and that the only way to escape from this grave 
mischief was greatly to encourage the system of tenant 
ownership. During the short-lived Ministry of Lord Salis- 
bury in 1885 the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Lord Ash- 
bourne, carried a Bill through Parliament by which a 
fund of ^5,000,000 was provided to give effect to this 
policy. Ample security was taken to protect the State ; 
but, instead of paying as hitherto part of the purchase 
money, the tenant was to have the whole sum lent him 
by the State, repayable by a terminable annuity much lower 
than an ordinary rent. The transaction, therefore, was not, 
in a real sense, a purchase ; it was, properly speaking, 
gift akin to a bribe. Tenants naturally took advantage o 
it, at least for a time ; and the -£5,000,000 were ere long 
expended in converting some hundreds of this class into 
owners, in cases where their landlords were willing to sell, 
for the process was to be voluntary on the landlord's 
side. The policy was pronounced successful. Application 
was made to Parliament, a few years afterwards, for a 
second sum of -£5,000,000 for the same purpose ; but 
though the security provided was the same, it was found 
very difficult to obtain a vote for the money. In 1890 a 
Bill, which became law in 1891, was introduced to carry 
out the system on a much larger scale. A sum of about 
^30,000,000 was made available, secured, not only by the 
annuities representing the loans and by the guarantees 
provided by the previous Acts, but by charges on Imperial 
grants to Ireland, and ultimately on the Irish counties ; and 
it was confidently predicted that so-called Land Purchase 
would rapidly proceed under these conditions. For reasons, 
however, which we cannot dwell on, those expectations 
have not been fulfilled ; the whole sums advanced by the 
State to turn tenants of farms into owners do not largely 
exceed ^10,000,000 — about a fourth part of the sum set 

304 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

apart for the purpose. We shall recur to the subject when 
we review the existing state of the Irish land system : 
enough to say that this legislation, in our judgment, is 
vicious in principle and a mistake ; that it has not hitherto 
done good in any reasonable sense ; and that, at the pre- 
sent rate of progress, it cannot much affect landed relations 
in Ireland for many years. The Act of 1891 had an 
excellent supplement: a "Congested Districts Board" was 
created to improve and develop the poverty-stricken region 
in the west and south-west of Ireland, even now sometimes 
the scene of much social distress ; and this has done good 
and valuable work. 

In 1892 Lord Salisbury's Ministry made an effort to 
place the system of Irish Local Government, for the most 
part, on a popular basis. This subject, we have seen, 
had been taken up by Butt ; it was unfortunate that Par- 
liament had not dealt with it in times comparatively free 
from troubles in Ireland. Local Government had been 
almost transformed in England by the establishment of 
County and lesser Councils ; in the interest of the Union it 
was deemed expedient to extend the new system to Ireland, 
under just conditions, so that no grounds of real complaint 
should exist in the matter. County Government in Ireland, 
we have said, had for many years, in fact since the Revolution 
of 1688, been mainly in the hands of the grand juries — that 
is of the leading gentry at the different counties nominated 
by the sheriffs, 'and practically by the Castle ; it had once 
abounded in grotesque abuses, as the readers of Maria 
Edgeworth's novels know ; but the grand juries had long 
been understrict central control, and they had performed their 
functions very well for three-quarters of a century at least. 
The institution, however, was out of date ; it was a survival 
of the Protestant Ascendency of a bygone age ; and, at the 
same time, Irish Municipal Government had, we have seen, 
been placed on a narrow foundation, and municipal life in 
Ireland was very feeble. A Bill was introduced to remedy 
this state of things ; but for two decisive reasons it could 
not correspond with the English original in some of its fea- 


tures. The National League, by Parnell's express direction, 
had largely laid hold of Irish elective bodies, such as Town 
Commissioners and Poor Law Guardians ; these were more 
or less hostile to the Irish landed gentry, and in many in- 
stances did them not a little harm, by violent denunciation 
and the maladministration of funds ; * and there was much 
danger that should they acquire large powers of local govern- 
ment without restraint, they would despoil owners of land 
of their property in some districts. In Ireland, too, the 
ratepayers were composed, unlike what is the case in Eng- 
land, in a very great degree of poor and easily led peasants 
who contributed comparatively little to the rates, while the 
landed gentry contributed not far from the half ; and in the 
absence of an intelligent and powerful middle-class, at all 
times a most unfortunate want in Ireland, it was feared that 
these indigent masses, if given a voice in local government, 
would do a great deal of mischief. The measure proposed 
a large scheme of County, and of what was called Baronial, 
Councils, analogous in many respects to those of England ; 
but it provided safeguards against these evils in a series of 
carefully devised checks ; it made some large towns areas for 
County Councils ; and certainly it was a statesmanlike 
project, and would have made an immense change in Irish 
local government, and, it was to be hoped, a real improve- 
ment, if no doubt some of its provisions were somewhat 
harsh and narrow. It was, however, treated with ridicule 
and scorn by Mr. Gladstone's following, and by the remains 
of what once had been the strong band of Parnell, on the 
plea that it did not conform to the English pattern — an- 
argument hardly worth notice considering the distinction 
between the two cases — but really because it did not favour 
Home Rule ; and it was ultimately dropped by the Govern- 
ment with regret. A measure of the same kind has been 
promised for the present Session, and will, doubtless, see the 
light before these pages ; but it will almost certainly resemble 
the Bill of 1892, with this difference, that an opportunity 

1 See the Evidence taken before a recent Committee of the House of 
Lords on the Administration of the Poor Law in Ireland. 


306 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

now exists, through a proposed change in the modes of 
local taxation, to strengthen the safeguards before referred 

The Local Government Bill of 1892 was the last Irish 
measure of Lord Salisbury's Ministry. Parliament was 
dissolved in the summer of the year ; the General Election 
presented many curious features. The Conservative Govern- 
ment had been six years in office ; the notion that each 
side ought to have its turn, so general in democratic 
England, inclined " the pendulum " as it has been called, 
against them. The wonderful energy shown by Mr. Glad- 
stone, at an age beyond the ordinary span of life, gave him 
the support of thousands of voters ; and as he had as- 
siduously proclaimed that the " cause of Ireland " was that 
of the "masses against the classes," Home Rule became 
identified, in the minds of many, with popular progress and 
even social liberty. The danger of Home Rule, too, had 
seemed greatly diminished ; the formidable band of Parnell 
had been broken up ; the conspiracy in Ireland had been 
put down ; the appeals made by Irish orators from a hun- 
dred platforms, in behalf of "self government," had not 
been fruitless ; all this favoured the policy of 1886. But 
two paramount causes especially came in aid of Home 
Rule ; it was sedulously announced that the new measure 
which, in the event of his regaining power, Mr. Gladstone 
would bring in as to Irish affairs, although it had been care- 
fully kept in the dark, would be free from the evils of its 
predecessor ; and Home Rule had the artificial support of 
the process known by the name of " logrolling " never 
so conspicuous hitherto in our national politics. It was 
associated with projects for Disestablishing Churches, with 
Temperance, Labour, Suffrage and Taxation questions, in 
short, with a series of English Radical cries ; and the authors 
of these backed it, with pretended zeal, chiefly in order to 
propitiate Mr. Gladstone, with whom Home Rule, notoriously, 
was the first of all subjects ; all these influences necessarily 
told ; Mr. Gladstone's followers, it is well known, boasted 
confidently that they would " sweep the country." These 


hopes, however, were not realised ; the new Liberals, we 
may now call them Radicals, were successful, indeed, in 
Scotland and Wales ; but England declared against Home 
Rule again, though not so decisively as six years before. 
The General Election in Ireland was marked by incidents 
of an ominous and unfortunate kind. The band of Parnell 
had been split into two factions ; these rushed at each 
other furiously at the polls ; the miserable divisions of Irish- 
men, their reproach for ages, were placed in prominent and 
grotesque relief. The Catholic priesthood exercised its 
immense influence, with little scruple, against Parnell's 
adherents ; sacerdotal power, in fact, ruled nine-tenths 
of Catholic Ireland ; the faction opposed to Parnell gained 
an easy triumph. More than eighty representatives from 
Ireland declared for Home Rule ; but they were very 
different from the compact phalanx which had been so 
skilfully directed by the " uncrowned king " ; they were 
hostile fractions of an army that had lost its commander. 

Taking the Three Kingdoms as a whole after the Election 
closed, Mr. Gladstone found himself at the head of a small 
majority of some forty votes in the House of Commons, 
but a majority held together mainly by the power of his 
name, and really divided into separate groups, ill-united, 
and each with objects of its own. The prospect for the 
aged statesman was not bright ; but his majority was able 
to place him in office once more ; Lord Salisbury resigned 
after an adverse vote. Soon after the beginning of the 
session of 1893 Mr. Gladstone introduced the measure 
which, for the second time, was to carry into effect the 
policy of Home Rule. His speech was a marvel for a man 
of eighty-three, and was, perhaps, more confident than that 
of 1886, but it was marked by omissions indicating the 
weakness of old age, and, in one matter of supreme import- 
ance, it certainly revealed a want of grasp of the subject. 
The Bill resembled in many respects the Bill which had 
been defeated before ; but it was widely different in some 
others, especially in one of the greatest gravity. An Irish 
Parliament was to be again created ; but it was to be a 


308 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

much smaller body than that of 1886 ; there was to be a 
Legislative Council analogous to the First Order, but com- 
posed only of forty-eight members, the Irish Peerage being 
excluded ; and there was to be a Legislative Assembly 
corresponding to the Second Order, but consisting of only 
a hundred and three members, the number of representa- 
tives from Ireland in the House of Commons. 1 The 
Legislative Council and Assembly were generally to sit 
apart ; but the Legislative Council, like the First Order, was 
to have a temporary veto on the acts of the main Assembly ; 
this body, it should be noted, like the Second Order, com- 
manding a majority that made it supreme. The new Irish 
Parliament, like its defunct original, was to be limited in 
its legislation in a whole range of matters, as regards 
Imperial and Irish affairs ; it was not to impose the taxes of 
Customs and Excise ; and it was to be subject to the same 
veto, and to nearly the same control of the English Privy 
Council as its predecessor had been. The new Parliament, 
however limited in this way, was to be a Parliament in the 
proper sense of the word ; it was to govern Ireland like the 
Parliament of the previous Bill ; and an Irish Executive 
was to be dependent on it with the whole administration of 
Ireland in its hands. As respects finance, the unpopular 
" tribute " was given up, and there was to be no Receiver- 
General over Irish revenue ; Ireland was to make directly no 
contribution to the general expenditure of the Empire ; 
but her customs were to be appropriated to defray any Impe- 
rial charge she ought justly to pay ; and this was calculated 
at a sum of about two millions and a half sterling, with a 
temporary addition of about a million more — a sum much 
less than that proposed in 1886. But infinitely the most 
important distinction between the two measures has yet 
to be noticed. Mr. Gladstone had excluded, six years 
previously, all Irish representatives from the House of 
Commons ; on this occasion he proposed to let them in 

1 The number of one hundred and five Irish members, fixed by the 
Reform Act of 1832, had been reduced to a hundred and three by 
the disfranchisement of two boroughs. 


in the considerable number of eighty members. They were 
to have no power to vote upon British questions, but on 
Irish and Imperial would possess the right ; it is almost 
certain that Mr. Gladstone did not appreciate, perhaps 
at any time, the immense consequences this provision 
involved ; at least his acts and speeches pointed in that 
direction. It remains to add that the supremacy of the 
Imperial Parliament was clearly asserted in the Bill of 
1893 ; but it was still a supremacy in name only ; and 
there was no supplemental measure, as there had been in 
1886, for buying out Irish landlords, through the agency of 
the State. The question of the Irish land, indeed, was 
postponed for three years, to be left afterwards, probably, to 
the Irish Parliament ; and it is very remarkable that Mr. 
Gladstone did not even allude to this capital subject in the 
speech in which he brought in the Bill. 

The debates on the second reading of the Home Rule 
Bill began on the 6th of April, 1893. They were as able, 
perhaps, as those on the project of 1886, but, except in the 
instance of Mr. Gladstone, they were less impassioned and 
less earnest ; the measure, it was soon understood, was fore- 
doomed to failure. The objections in our judgment con- 
clusive, apparent in the original Bill, were equally manifest in 
the present scheme ; and there were other objections perhaps 
even more weighty. Still less than had been the case in 1886, 
was there any reason for an immense Constitutional change, 
for Ireland was quiescent, and made hardly a sign ; still 
less was there even a prospect that this could be successful. 
The distinction between British, Imperial, and Irish affairs, 
always deemed essential, was not drawn more perfectly than 
it had been drawn before ; indeed Mr. Gladstone admitted 
that it could not be drawn with anything like an approach 
to completeness. The conditions declared to be necessary 
were not nearly satisfied ; the conditions, indeed, in favour 
of the minority were not satisfied at all ; there was no 
proposal to expropriate the Irish landlords and to indemnify 
them at the risk of the State ; they were evidently to be 
soon thrown as a prey to their enemies ; the obligations of 

310 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

"duty and honour" were cast to the winds. It was obvious 
that the Imperial Parliament and Government would have 
hardly any power in Ireland, and yet that the Irish Parlia- 
ment would be held in bondage in respect of subjects of 
great importance ; and that angry conflicts would inevitably 
ensue, especially in the existing relations between the two 
countries. The fiscal provisions of this scheme were less 
unjust to Ireland than those of the measure of 1886 ; for 
Ireland would have a powerful voice in the Imperial Parlia- 
ment and could not be taxed without being represented ; 
but the Irish Parliament would have no control over the 
largest parts of Irish taxation ; and as the allocation of the 
Irish customs to the payment of an Imperial charge would 
leave the Irish Parliament, in this matter, free from respon- 
sibility of any kind, encouragement would be afforded to 
wholesale smuggling, and the British Treasury would 
certainly be a heavy loser. For the rest, the Irish 
Parliament and its executive, if restricted in many points 
of importance, could in others do almost as they pleased; 
and as had been predicted in 1886, they would, in all 
probability, use their immense authority in doing revolu- 
tionary work in Ireland, political, social, and agrarian alike. 
The most decisive objection, however, to the Bill, was the 
proposed license to eighty Irish members to appear at 
Westminster and to have a right to vote on Irish and 
Imperial, but not on British questions. Mr. Gladstone 
had felt that the exclusion, by the Bill of 1886, of Irish 
representatives from the House of Commons, was not to 
be defended for many reasons ; he seems not to have 
perceived that their inclusion, under the conditions of the 
Bill of 1893, indeed under any conditions of a Home Rule 
policy, was absolutely incapable of being defended at all. 
Assuming, as was not to be assumed, that a real partition 
could he made between British, Irish, and Imperial subjects, 
this strange proposal would necessarily lead to a complete 
and not infrequent paralysis of the State, and would make 
Parliamentary Government simply hopeless. For if Irish 
members were to be permitted to vote in the same House 


of Commons, on certain questions, and were not to be 
permitted to vote on others — to vote, say, upon peace or 
war, but not to vote on British trade or taxes — the 
inevitable result would be, as was clearly shown, that 
there would not be a stable majority in the ruling House 
of Parliament ; that no Ministry would be safe for a week ; 
that, in a word, Parliamentary affairs would be brought to 
a deadlock. This state of things obviously could not be 
endured ; but the only escape from it would be from bad 
to worse ; it would be to make Great Britain and Ireland 
separate States, united only by a Federal tie ; that is to 
destroy the British Monarchy of the nineteenth century, 
and to place in its stead a Confederacy that would not act 
in concert, and that probably would perish at the first real 
trial — not to speak of the effects on Scotland, and perhaps 
on Wales. 

The Home Rule Bill of 1893, in short, differed in almost 
every respect for the worse, where it differed from the Bill 
of 1886 ; the In and Out plan, as it was contemptuously called, 
that is, the power of voting bestowed on Irish members — was 
proved to be impossible by reasoning to which there was 
no answer. The second reading, nevertheless, passed by 
a majority in appearance still unbroken ; the English 
and Scotch Radicals were in need of the support of Mr. 
Gladstone for their own objects, and also of their National 
League allies ; and England, it was not inaptly said, was 
sold for a mess of Radical pottage. But meanwhile, and 
for weeks afterwards, public opinion in England and in 
Protestant Ireland, was stirred to its depths ; and loud and 
angry protests were made against the revolution which it 
was being tried to force on the country. The powerful 
Press of England distinguished itself again ; petitions 
flowed in largely from the English counties ; the Home Rule 
Bill was publicly burned in the City ; notable deputations 
waited on Mr. Gladstone and denounced his policy with no 
uncertain voice. The attitude of the Irish Protestants was 
even more significant ; an immense gathering assembled 
in the heart of London, under the presidency of the Duke 

312 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

of Abercorn, the foremost of the noble settlers of Ulster ; it 
was attended by delegates from all parts of Ireland, repre- 
senting the intelligence and the wealth of nearly the whole 
community; the Catholic Ireland of loyalty and of the 
landed gentry had at its head the descendant of the Fingall 
of the days of Pitt ; and the meeting, one of the most 
imposing that was ever seen, condemned Home Rule in 
impassioned language, and declared that the only hope of 
safety for Ireland lay in the Union. A number of similar 
meetings were held, and were addressed by the chief Oppo- 
sition speakers ; and Lord Salisbury, at one of these in 
Belfast, predicted in bold and confident words, that "this 
intolerable and imbecile Bill, due to the insane eccen- 
tricities of a single statesman," would never " be placed on 
the British statute book." The sentiment of the great 
majority of the nation, in fact, made itself felt ; and this 
was the more significant because there was scarcely a sign 
of a contrary feeling in Great Britain or in Ireland herself. 
The petitions in favour of the measure were few in the 
extreme ; even the Radical English Press was almost silent, 
and there was scarcely a public demonstration on behalf of 
Home Rule save a meeting comparatively small in Hyde 

This state of determined hostility, on one side, and of 
indifferent apathy on the other, was of bad omen for the 
success of the measure. The Bill went into Committee in 
the second week of May ; the Opposition encountered it 
with a mass of amendments ; and if obstruction was to be 
ever justified, it was justified in a case in which an attempt 
was being made to subvert the ancient Constitution of these 
realms, on the plea of conceding Home Rule to Ireland, 
and that against the manifest will of the nation. The 
progress of the measure was extremely slow ; every effort 
the Opposition made to secure the supremacy of the Imperial 
Parliament, over Irish affairs, in a real sense, and to protect 
Ulster and the rest of Protestant Ireland, was defeated, 
though with majorities beginning to fail ; the English 
Radicals, eager to have their way, and their Irish satellites 


dreading British opinion, insisted, it is believed, on a course 
being taken, which stands out as one of the worst acts to 
which the House of Commons ever gave its assent. Mr. 
Gladstone, probably against his will, required that discussion 
on separate parts of the Bill should come to an end on 
days named beforehand, and should finally cease on a 
given day ; this closure by compartments, as it was called, 
was reluctantly adopted by a small majority ; and a process, 
fitly compared to that of the guillotine, brought the resistance 
of the Opposition, at last, to a close. The Bill passed the 
third reading on the 1st of September, but by a majority 
of only thirty-four votes ; more than half of it had not 
been examined ; but the parts of it which had been debated 
had been so transformed that its author could hardly have 
recognised his own work. The financial arrangements had 
been given up ; there had been several other important 
changes ; but the most notable change was the abandon- 
ment, in despair, of the celebrated In and Out project. 
Eighty Irish members, as before, were to appear at West- 
minster ; but the restriction placed on them was taken 
away ; they were now to have a right to vote on all 
questions Imperial, Irish, and British alike ! This shameful 
proposal, which might have given representatives of the 
National League an absolute power over any question 
which might come before the Imperial Parliament, while 
that Parliament was practically deprived of effective control 
over Irish affairs, meant simply that the Constitution was 
to go to wreck ; it would ultimately, like the In and Out 
scheme, have substituted a Confederation of the worst type 
for the Parliamentary Monarchy of these kingdoms ; and it 
is only right to observe that three or four of Mr. Gladstone's 
supporters protested against it. It was, in fact, the vicious 
and obsolete plan of Butt presented in the most offensive 
shape ; had Mr. Gladstone forgotten how, twenty years 
before, he had condemned it, with pitiless logic and in 
scornful language ? * 

1 For a very able analysis and review of the Home Rule Bill of 1893, 
as it was first brought into the House of Commons, see " A Leap in the 
Dark," by A. V. Dicey. 

314 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

This ill-starred measure was forced through the House 
of Commons by " logrolling " and "logrolling" only; the 
separated groups supported each other, to gratify Mr. 
Gladstone, and for their own purposes. It was opposed, 
too, by an overwhelming force of public opinion ; in fact, 
it would not have passed the third reading had it not been 
notorious that a project, all but universally condemned and 
even ridiculed, could by no possibility become law. 1 In 
these circumstances the decision of the House of Lords, as 
had been foreseen, was a foregone conclusion. The Bill 
was brought before the Peers on the 5th of September ; it 
was severely censured by a number of speakers, especially 
by Lord Salisbury in impressive language ; but what must 
have galled Mr. Gladstone most, were the grave reproaches 
of old friends and colleagues, notably of the Duke of 
Argyll and of Lord Selborne, both of whom blamed his 
policy and conduct alike. The most remarkable speech on 
the side of the Government was the cynical utterance of 
Lord Rosebery ; he invited the Opposition to cut the Bill 
into shreds, and showed an unconcealed distrust of Home 
Rule. The measure was rejected by a majority tenfold in 
numbers ; the rejection certainly was in accord with the 
national judgment considered as a whole. Not even an 
attempt was made to set up a cry that the House of Lords 
had set the will of the House of Commons at nought ; in 
Ireland, as had happened in 1886, scarcely a murmur of 
dissatisfaction was heard, a striking proof in this, as in many 
other instances, how fictitious and weak is any Irish move- 
ment against the Union, as a national settlement, and apart 
from socialistic and kindred ends. Mr. Gladstone, it is 

1 The author of the chapters on English History in the " Annual 
Register" of 1893, though inclining to Home Rule, admits this, p. 215 : 
" No greater evidence could be found of the indifference with which 
the public received this measure than . . . the general acquiescence of 
all parties in its certain rejection by the Lords. . . . Among the Liberal 
party there were not a few to admit that the Bill was altogether 
unworkable, and would not have been allowed to pass from the 
Commons, in its actual shape, but for the certainty that in any shape 
it would ultimately be rejected." 


said, wished to dissolve Parliament, as he had dissolved it 
in 1886, on the desperate chance that the country would 
adopt Home Rule ; but he was dissuaded by colleagues who 
read better the signs of the time. The veteran ere long 
retired from public life ; his last speech characteristically 
was an attack on the House of Lords which had ventured 
to cross his purpose. In his case, as in that of Parnell, 
History has yet to pronounce on what he achieved for 
Ireland. We may, however, remark that his Irish policy 
is plainly divided into two parts ; in the first he carried 
important reforms ; but his Education Bill was a bad 
measure, and his Church Act failed to do the good which 
he might have, perhaps, accomplished. In the second 
phase of his Irish career, he certainly was in difficult straits ; 
but he temporised with, and at last surrendered to, a faction 
which a bolder Minister would have defied ; his Land Act 
of 1 88 1 was a mischievous agrarian law ; his attitude in 
Opposition, from 1886 to 1892, was unworthy of an eminent 
statesman ; his Home Rule Bills, we are convinced, would 
have been fatal to the State. 

Lord Rosebery was the successor of Mr. Gladstone ; he 
showed from the outset that Home Rule was a political 
nostrum not to his taste. It is unnecessary to follow the 
course of his shortlived Ministry, the weakest since that of 
Lord Goderich ; nor shall we dwell on its final collapse. 
A single remark may, however, be made ; a measure affect- 
ing the lands of the Three Kingdoms and imposing on them 
an enormous charge, was carried by the vote of the National 
League members, allied for the most part with British 
Radicals ; this was one of the many striking instances how 
Irish party has, since the Union, often had a decisive 
influence on British interests. A word must be said on 
the administration of Irish affairs, since the fall of Lord 
Salisbury's Government in 1892. Mr. Gladstone's and Lord 
Rosebery's Chief Secretary was Mr. Morley, one of the few 
Englishmen who really has a faith in Home Rule ; as far 
as in him lay he tried to rule the country in what seemed 
to him to be the Home Rule spirit. He entered into a close 

3 J 6 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

alliance with the section of the Home Rule party, which 
had broken away from Parnell's followers, and owed its 
position chiefly to sacerdotal influence ; and a kind of 
compact was made between them that Ireland was to be 
kept quiet, if, even apart from the great subject of Home 
Rule, Irish administration should be in so-called Irish 
interests. The experiment was not very successful ; the 
Executive, as it had the power, suspended the Crimes Act ; 
and there was a partial revival of agrarian disorder, but not 
one that requires much notice. For the rest Mr. Morley 
probably hoped that, as a Minister in Ireland, he would 
prove a second Drummond ; but though an able and well- 
meaning statesman, he had no opportunity to show what 
was in him. He raised a number of Catholics to the 
magisterial bench, a policy doubtless in principle right ; 
but some of his selections were not fortunate, for which, 
however, he is hardly to be blamed. He appointed, besides, 
a special commission to investigate the claims of evicted 
tenants, but this came to an inglorious end ; and a Bill he 
introduced to restore to their farms the sufferers from the 
Plan of Campaign — an ill-conceived and unfair measure — 
was properly rejected by the House of Lords. Another 
Bill of his which* aimed at extending the operation of the 
Land Act of 1881, and at injuring still further the Irish 
landed gentry, passed a second reading in the House of 
Commons ; it was an emanation from the National League ; 
but it only struggled, as it were, into life. On the whole 
the Irish administration of Mr. Morley was not remarkable 
either for good or for evil ; its principle feature was, 
perhaps, its weakness. 

Lord Rosebery's Ministry eked its existence out until the 
summer of 1895. The General Election that followed was, 
perhaps, the most remarkable of the many that have taken 
place since the Revolution of 1688. The numerous 
interests assailed by logrolling united to keep out the men 
lately in office ; public opinion resented their futile attempts 
to cling to posts they had held against the will of the 
people. But the influences which determined the result 


were more powerful and enduring than these. England and 
even Scotland were indignant that Irish affairs had 
engrossed the attention of Parliament, it may be said for 
years, to the neglect of interests of supreme importance ; 
England especially was incensed that, under the guise of a 
bad measure for the supposed good of Ireland, it had been 
recklessly proposed that she was to be ruled by Irishmen, 
supporters probably of the National League, while she was 
not to rule Ireland at all ; and that her ancient Constitution 
was to be destroyed in the process. Once more the 
moderate and enlightened opinion of England triumphed ; 
the Anti-Unionist party suffered the most complete defeat a 
party has suffered since the accession of the House of 
Brunswick. Four hundred and eleven Conservatives and 
old Liberals were returned from Great Britain to the House 
of Commons against a hundred and seventy-seven followers 
of the late Government ; and these last were at odds with 
each other on the Irish Question. In Ireland the Election 
presented the same features, or nearly so, as that of 1892. 
The factions that had split in two after the fall of Parnell, 
flew at each other's throats as savagely as before ; the 
priesthood again used their commanding influence if not so 
openly as three years previously ; seventy members of the 
party they upheld were sent to Westminster in opposition 
to twelve still true to the memory of their old leader ; 
intelligence and property were again overwhelmed. Lord 
Salisbury returned to power once more with a majority of 
more than a hundred and fifty in the House of Commons ; 
but the Unionists had become completely fused ; and the 
most distinguished leaders of the old Liberals took high 
office under the new Government. 

This Ministry has been in office for nearly three years ; it 
has necessarily been very largely engaged in dealing with 
English and Scotch questions, left in arrear ; in foreign 
affairs it has had to battle with a sea of troubles. Time has 
yet to pronounce on its Irish policy ; but this hitherto has 
not commended itself to impartial and well-informed 
Irishmen. The only important measure it has accomplished 

3i8 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

has been a further extension of the recent Land Acts, and a 
further encroachment on the rights of Irish landlords, with 
additional peculiarities of its own ; and the attendant 
circumstances have been unfortunate. The Land Act of 
1896, as it is called, removed some of the few restrictions, 
in the interest of property, left in 1881 and 1887 ; it 
admitted certain classes of Irish tenants to the benefits of the 
" Three F's " ; it placed the law as to the exemption of 
tenants' improvements from rent, on foundations to a con- 
siderable extent untried. It contained also a principle 
never applied before ; a Court was empowered to hand over 
estates extremely burdened with debt to their occupiers, by a 
compulsory process, on the terms of what is erroneously 
called Land Purchase ; the results, trivial as yet, may be far- 
reaching. The Bill, dealing practically with the whole land 
of Ireland, was hustled through the House of Commons 
with unbecoming haste — an instance of the " lazy con- 
tumely," in Grattan's phrase — characteristic of the treatment 
of Irish affairs ; one of the ablest and most independent of 
the Irish members walked out of the House of Commons 
to express his disgust. The measure passed with much 
difficulty through the House of Lords, despite its loyalty to 
the men in power ; some of its provisions, indeed, imperil 
the rights of property, especially the rights of the owners of 
ground rent in towns, not in Ireland only, but throughout 
Great Britain ; in fact the nature of this legislation has been 
at last perceived. A Bill for a reform of Irish Local 
Government has, we have said, been announced for this 
Session ; it may be a comprehensive and a well-conceived 
scheme ; but a great opportunity has been afforded to a 
Government of extraordinary strength, to deal effectually 
with the Irish Question as a whole ; it is to be hoped it will 
take advantage of this, though it has not yet made a sign of 
this policy. Meanwhile the Land Commission and its 
dependent agencies, availing themselves of the Act of 1896, 
and of the excuse the depression of agriculture gives, 
have proceeded still more ruthlessly to cut down rents, and 
still further to wrong the Irish landed gentry. They have 


been a good deal engaged of late in renewing the leases for 
fifteen years created by the Land Act of 1881 ; the 
reductions of rent they have made have been beyond 
measure ; no justification can be found for them. In this 
process of confiscation they probably think they are doing 
what the Government wishes to be done ; we shall not 
decidedly pronounce on this ; but there is a special, and we 
believe a conclusive, reason why the fixing of "fair 
rents " should not be committed to Ihis tribunal. The 
Land Commission is, so to speak, the broker of the State 
in carrying out the policy of so-styled Land Purchase ; it has 
a direct interest to cause land to be sold cheap, as the old 
Encumbered Estates Court had, especially as the available 
fund is not large ; and it has, therefore, a direct interest to 
make rents as low as they can be made. This creates a 
conflict of duty and interest, that ought not to exist ; it is 
simply a matter of reproach and scandal ; such an abuse 
England, we repeat, would not brook or tolerate. The late 
proceedings of this tribunal, indeed, have caused such 
vehement complaints in Ireland, that a Commission has 
been appointed to report upon them ; this has been con- 
ducted with great ability and care ; but the terms of the 
inquiry have been so restricted, that it is scarcely possible 
that right will be done. 

An event happened in 1896 of grave importance in the 
affairs of Ireland. Ever since the fiscal arrangements in 
1853-60, a feeling existed in the minds of most thoughtful 
Irishmen, and had been growing, that serious wrong had 
been done ; the conscience of Mr. Gladstone had perhaps 
been stirred ; he appointed a Commission in 1893 charged 
to inquire into, and to report upon the financial relations of 
Great Britain and Ireland, in this respect following the 
example set by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the 
preceding Ministry, an authority of the very highest order. 
The Commission was composed, for the most part, of 
Englishmen, men of character, parts, and in this province 
experts; the inquiry continued for many months, with a late 
Chancellor of the Exchequer of Mr. Gladstone as head; it 

320 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

embraced many details and views of the subject ; the Report, 
published in the autumn of 1896, is a document of the very 
greatest value, throwing a flood of light on a subject hitherto 
little explored. The Commission followed the only lines they 
could follow consistently with the unquestionable facts of 
History. Proceeding on the principle which no British 
statesman, not even Mr. Gladstone forty years before, has 
since the Union ventured to impugn, that however Ireland 
may be " assimilated in finance " to Great Britain, accord- 
ing to the old ideal of Pitt, she is, nevertheless, to be 
regarded, financially, as a distinct country, entitled, under a 
solemn Treaty, to special immunities of her own, the chief 
of these being that she is not to be unfairly taxed, they 
applied this criterion to the financial order of things 
existing in 1893 and for a considerable time ; the results of 
their labours were certainly striking in the extreme. 1 The 
revenue and taxation of Ireland compared to that of Great 
Britain has been of late from about .£7,300,000 or 
^7,800,000 against -£85,000,000 or .£89,000,000, that is from 
about an eleventh to a twelfth part, in other words from eight 
to nine per cent, of the whole. But if the resources of 
Ireland are considered — and this is her true fiscal position — 
and every conceivable test be applied — Death Duties, 
Income Tax and indeed all others — her means cannot be 
reckoned as more than a twentieth at the most of those of 
England and Scotland, that is, if Ireland is not to be 
unfairly taxed, her taxation ought to be a twentieth only, 
that is not from .£7,000,000, to -£8,000,000, but certainly 
less than ^5,000,000, not eight or nine per cent., but about 
five per cent. Ireland has, therefore, been overtaxed between 
two and three million sterling, and that for more than a 
generation of man ; and if the account be taken on a basis 
perhaps more sound, the excess will be a much larger sum. 
If taxation ought to be imposed on the surplus remaining 
over and above the cost of the necessaries of life for the 

1 We have already referred to the financial rights and privileges of 
Ireland, as a distinct country, under the Treaty of Union. See on 
this subject the Report of the Childers Commission, pp. 38, 150, 166. 


community as a whole, then, as this surplus, in the case of 
Ireland, would be very much less than in the case of 
England and Scotland, due proportion being of course 
observed, her taxation ought to be not a twentieth, but a 
thirty-sixth part only of that of the other Two Kingdoms, 
that is a sum certainly less than -£3,000,000.* 

For educated Irishmen versed in the subject, this Report 
contained little that was not known or suspected. But it was 
a State paper chiefly the work of Englishmen ; it placed the 
whole case in the fullest relief ; it dissipated the sophistry 
and the mystification which had concealed the truth. It 
was treated in England at first with contempt ; when its 
significance was perceived it was angrily censured ; attempts 
were then made to deny the facts it brought out, or to refute 
the conclusions formed by its authors. No real answer, how- 
ever, has been forthcoming ; and no answer is possible if 
History is not to be ignored, and the Treaty of Union is not 
to be trodden underfoot. Meanwhile the Report had a 
profound effect in Ireland ; it revived, amidst the dissensions 
of class and party, something like a really patriotic feeling ; 
it has united Irishmen as they have not been united for years, 
in making a steadfast demand for financial justice. This 
claim was for some time set at nought ; but the Government 
saw that this would not do ; they adopted a course which, 
if rightly followed, ought to satisfy impartial and fair-minded 
men. The Commission did not traverse the whole field of 
inquiry ; it did not consider, at least thoroughly, whether a 
counterclaim, more or less large, might not be made against 
the excessive taxation of which Ireland legitimately com- 
plains ; and a promise has been made that another Com- 
mission shall investigate and report on the subject. This 
pledge has not been yet redeemed ; but a breach of faith, 
doubtless, will not be committed ; and though the terms of 
the proposed inquiry are hardly fair to Ireland, the truth 
can probably be made manifest. In another grave matter 
connected with finance, the Government showed anything 

1 See on this important point the evidence of Sir R. Giffen, the 
highest of all authorities on Statistics. Evidence, vol. ii. pp. 17-18. 


322 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

but fair play to Ireland, and were nearly making a dangerous 
mistake. Ireland has an unquestionable right to a propor- 
tionate share in any sum voted for the relief of agricultural 
rates ; but this was denied for some time, until the indigna- 
tion loudly expressed by Irishmen, and the remonstrances 
of the English Press, compelled the Ministry to change its 
purpose. Ireland is to obtain this sum, like England and 
Scotland, but on the condition, it would appear, that the 
proposed Local Government Bill shall pass ; this limitation 
is obviously out of place. We shall glance at the whole 
subject again when we survey the present state of Ireland ; 
enough here to remark that the question of the relief from 
rates has nothing to do with the much larger question of the 
excessive taxation imposed on Ireland ; justice done in this 
matter by no means implies that justice is to be withheld in 
the other. 

The close of 1897 has left Ireland in such a state of repose 
as has not been seen since the first Fenian outbreak. The 
violent movement of 1879-87 has ceased ; the strife of 
classes and the evil passions caused by the Land and the 
National Leagues are at rest ; the cry for Home Rule, never 
really intense, and sustained only by quite different cries, is 
not heard outside petty party gatherings ; agrarian crime has 
sunk to the lowest ebb ; the peasantry are nowhere dis- 
turbed ; social order prevails, and rents and debts are paid, 
though agricultural depression still exists. Partisans and 
sciolists may attribute this happy change to the agrarian 
revolution which has been wrought by the wholesale reduc- 
tion of rents and the confiscation of the rights of landlords, 
and these events have doubtless had some effect, though this 
will not excuse a false and unjust policy. But the change, 
remarkable, yet not without example in several passages of 
Irish History, is essentially due to quite different causes. 
The foreign conspiracy to which the disorder of late years 
in Ireland is to be mainly ascribed is, for the present, in 
complete suspense ; it sends no supplies to the conspiracy 
at home, and has reduced this to mere impotent despair ; 
the old chiefs of the Land and National Leagues are for 


the time unable to do mischief ; Parnell has still a few 
faithful followers ; but his formidable band is a thing of the 
past ; even the sacerdotal faction has been rent in twain ; 
the classes that once upheld these leaders have no faith in 
them. These are the true reasons that Ireland is now at 
peace ; yet it would be a mistake to suppose that the fires 
are not beneath their ashes ; nay, that all in the state of the 
country is of happy omen. The conspiracy, quiescent as it 
is, retains life ; this exhibits itself in signs that cannot be 
mistaken, though it is a feeble and, at present, a harmless 
spark ; that it will regain its old strength is hardly possible ; 
but it contains elements that may yet do evil. Our rulers, it 
is to be hoped, will keep this steadily in mind, and will not 
be led into the optimistic negligence, with regard to the real 
needs of Ireland, characteristic of their predecessors from 
1854 to 1865. Ireland demands statesmanship of the best 
order to raise her present condition to a higher level ; large 
and searching reforms have to be yet accomplished ; she has 
to be wisely and well governed ; the men now in power will, 
we trust, seize an occasion to do a noble work, such as per- 
haps has never presented itself before. 

The period, of which we have followed the course, is cer- 
tainly the most momentous passage in the History of Ireland 
since the Union. After the lapse of more than three-fourths 
of a century, a British statesman, suddenly yielding to the 
menaces of a conspiracy he ought to have crushed, and 
completely misunderstanding the import of events, attempted 
to undo that great settlement, and that under conditions 
which made his conduct, not only an act of the gravest 
backsliding, but a betrayal of National and Imperial interests. 
Mr. Gladstone engaged in this bad enterprise apparently 
without much previous reflection ; he contrived to 
destroy the Liberal party, but his policy ended in igno- 
minious failure. His two Home Rule Bills remain monu- 
ments of disastrous imprudence ; both would have done 
infinite harm to Great Britain and Ireland ; the last 
especially would have subverted the State, and our Constitu- 
tional and Parliamentary modes of government. Both 

324 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

schemes were annihilated by the sheer force of opinion ; 
neither, we may be assured, will ever reappear ; if a Home 
Rule policy, which is not impossible, be reduced again into 
a definite form, it will certainly be on a very different model. 
It is improbable, however, that the attempt will be made ; 
the Radical party, shattered by Mr. Gladstone, is evidently 
trying to set Home Rule aside, though it can hardly dispense 
with its Irish allies, or to reproduce it in a shape which must 
be condemned ; the demand for Home Rule by itself in 
Ireland is also seen to be false and hollow. The experience 
of years, in fact, has conclusively proved that this policy rests 
on no solid basis ; it was a surrender to a revolutionary and 
socialistic faction ; it will hardly receive the countenance 
of another British Minister. This period, too, beheld the 
exposure, before a high tribunal, of the character of the 
foreign conspiracy, which, laying hold of congenial elements 
at home, and making use of social distress, convulsed 
Ireland for a series of years, and has reduced the Irish land 
system to a state of chaos, because an emotional statesman 
chose to give way to it. It also beheld the memorable fall 
of one of the most remarkable men of this age ; the com- 
plete disintegration of Parnell's submissive following is 
a conspicuous proof of his power as a leader of men, and of 
the influence which he possessed in Parliament, and which 
enabled him to play a great but unprincipled part. The 
conspiracy at home and abroad is now dormant ; but if it 
has been scotched, it has not been killed ; we have not yet 
seen its final extinction, though there are many signs that 
this is not distant. Meanwhile Ireland is in profound tran- 
quillity ; now is the time to apply to her the amending hand 
with sound judgment, wisdom, and caution, for she has 
suffered greatly from the events of the last twenty years 
politically, economically, and in her social structure. 



Material condition of Ireland in 1898 — Ireland still divided into three 
peoples — Position of Catholic, Presbyterian, and Protestant Ireland 
in the State — Fall of Protestant Ascendency and the resulting 
consequences — Landed relations in Ireland — Complete change 
effected in the interest of the tenant class, and to the injury of the 
landed gentry — Prevailing tone of sentiment and opinion in 
Catholic, Presbyterian, and Protestant Ireland — Lingering feeling 
of disaffection among the lower classes of the Irish Catholics. The 
Irish Presbyterians devotedly loyal — Feelings of the Irish Protes- 
tants and especially of the landed gentry — The present institutions 
of Ireland — Results of the disappearance of the Irish Parliament — 
State of the representation of Ireland — The Disestablished Church 
and the Catholic Church of Ireland — State of Irish literature — Low 
standard of education in Ireland, except at Trinity College — 
Results of the Union — The Home Rule policy — The demand for 
Home Rule largely fictitious — Proposal to hold the Imperial 
Parliament in Dublin occasionally — The Irish Land system — 
Imperative necessity of reform — The Financial Relations Question 
— Local Government and a Catholic University — Other reforms 
expedient — Reflections — Conclusion. 

Having sketched the History of Ireland during the last 
hundred years, I purpose briefly to describe her existing 
state ; I shall follow, as nearly as possible, with respect to 
the present time, the arrangement adopted with respect to 
1798. The material progress of the country has been 
decided, if we consider the century as a whole ; but it has 
not been so rapid or great as once appeared probable ; it 
has been exceedingly slow since about 1876 ; there has 
been positive retrogression in one branch of industry of the 
highest importance. The capital, with its noble public 
buildings and fine suburbs, has continued to improve ; the 


326 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

distinction between the dwellings of the rich and the poor 
so painfully significant at the time of the Union, has sensibly 
diminished in the last thirty years. Some of the country 
towns show a corresponding change ; and Belfast has, even 
in this generation, prodigiously increased in population and 
wealth ; as a centre of commerce it is by many degrees the 
most flourishing of Irish cities. The development of Catholic 
places of worship, to which we have adverted before, has not 
ceased, hard as have been some years of late ; it is a visible 
and very striking sign of the growth of Catholic Ireland in 
well being and power, and of the devotion of a still deeply 
religious people. The most conspicuous proof, however, 
perhaps, of this material progress is the astonishing change 
which has taken place in the habitations of the community 
in the last half century. The miserable hovels of the past 
are relatively extremely few ; they were not far from half a 
million in 1841 ; they are now little more than twenty thou- 
sand in number ; the houses of a better kind have nearly 
doubled within the same period. The agriculture of Ireland 
is still backward, and has not, especially of late years, made 
the improvement made from 1854 to 1877 ; but, compared 
to what it was a century ago, it is infinitely better and of a 
less rude character. The landscape in whole counties has 
been transformed, and no longer wears a look of abject 
poverty ; millions of acres have been enclosed and drained ; 
in the methods of husbandry, in the quality of the crops, 
in the breeds of animals, there has been a most admirable 
change. Ireland is still a poor country, as she has always 
been ; parts of Ireland are still exceedingly poor ; and Irish 
trade and manufactures, with two or three most notable 
exceptions, are not prosperous. But in all these respects 
there has been a real advance, if we look back over broad 
spaces of time ; and the improvement in the condition of 
the humbler classes in the last sixty years has been beyond 
dispute. The grandsons of the peasants who flocked to 
the huge gatherings of the Catholic Association and the 
Repeal meetings are very different from what their parents 
were ; they would hardly be recognised by O'Connell if 



alive ; they are no longer attired in rags ; the potato is no 
longer their only food ; east of the Shannon, at least, they 
present an appearance of comfort absolutely unknown in 
his day. The wages of agricultural and other labour have 
not declined in Ireland of late years, though industry has 
been in many ways depressed ; they are more than what 
they were in the time of the Great War measured by the 
price of the necessaries and the conveniences of life. Nay, 
if we take a variety of tests, not, indeed, conclusive but of 
some value, such as returns of railways and deposits in banks, 
Ireland seems to have grown somewhat richer within the 
last twenty years. 

The picture, however, has a darker side ; there are con- 
siderable drawbacks from this partial welfare. Cork has 
probably declined in the last half century ; Galway and even 
Limerick are almost in decay ; many country towns and 
villages still show the ruinous effects of the Great Famine, 
or have suffered from the disappearance of small industries. 
Scores of the seats of the gentry, once happy homes, are 
desolate; they reveal the disastrous work of the Encumbered 
Estates Acts, and of the mischievous legislation of 1881 ; it 
is remarkable how few great demesnes have been made and 
great mansions built in the last century. Owing chiefly to 
the operation of Free Trade, which has been, no doubt, of 
immense advantage to the mere peasant, by cheapening the 
price of the necessaries of life, but has done grave injury to 
the substantial farmer, the agricultural products of Ireland 
have largely diminished in value since 1851 ; the area of 
husbandry of all kinds, and even of the best pasturage', 
seems to have probably decreased. 1 Through the effects of 

1 See the figures. Report of the Childers Commission, p. 43. 

Stock ... 








328 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

causes, besides, to be briefly noticed, when we shall review 
the present state of the Irish land system, agriculture, it is 
all but certain, has declined, especially as to arterial drainage r 
one of the first requirements of a wet country, and even as 
to the stocks of animals of the higher classes ; the consolida- 
tion of farms, a beneficent process, if carried on under just 
conditions, has, it may be said, very nearly ceased ; and it 
is absolutely untrue that the artificial attempts which have 
been made to transform Irish land tenures have, in any 
real sense, improved the cultivation of the soil ; their 
principal consequences as yet have been the destruction of 
thousands of acres of woodland ruthlessly cut down by so- 
called " purchasing " tenants. Pauperism in Ireland is 
distinctly on the increase much as the people dislike the 
Poor Law ; in the backward districts of Con naught and 
Munster a large population is always on the verge of want ; 
and the taxation of Ireland, local and general, is enormous 
compared to what it was from 1782 to 1800, the general 
taxation, too, being found to be far too high by the Report 
of a Commission as yet not answered. Nor is anything 
more certain than that if Ireland, as a whole, has advanced 
in prosperity since the Union, the corresponding advance of 
England and Scotland has been many times more decisive 
and rapid. The growth of Great Britain in wealth has been 
prodigious, especially in the last half century, that of Ireland 
has been comparatively small and feeble. 1 Nor are the 
reasons difficult to seek ; the age has been one of material 
inventions ; and the mineral products of the larger island 
have been instruments of supreme importance in developing 
the commerce and the vast opulence which have been 
evolved under these conditions. The policy of Free Trade, 
too, adopted by England, has doubled and trebled the 
resources of a nation depending, perhaps mainly, on its 
gigantic trade and manufacturing system ; and Great 
Britain has been for a hundred years a well-governed and 
peaceable land, in which order has been reconciled with 

2 See on this point the remarkable figures in the Report of the 
Childers Commission, p. 43, and the observations of Mr. Childers, p. 185. 

IRELAND IN 1898 329 

freedom. The contrast Ireland presents is striking and 
mournful ; her mineral products are very small ; her trade 
and manufactures are not important ; she has, unhappily, 
been often misruled and injured by agitation and social 
troubles. These circumstances account for this wide 
distinction : but the fact remains that Ireland in 1898 is 
relatively far more behind England than she was a few years 
before Pitt carried the Union into effect. 

The population of Ireland in 1892 is between four and 
five millions of souls, not very different from what it was 
at the time of the Union. It has been enormously reduced 
in the last half century ; this diminution has had many 
good results, but it stands out in conspicuous and sad 
contrast with the growth of the millions of England and 
Scotland. The Irish community, as has been the case for 
ages, remains separated into three peoples, differing from 
each other in race and faith ; the distinction is fully at 
least as marked as it was in the day of Pitt and of Grattan. 
The position in the State, however, of those divided units 
has undergone a complete change in the period of which 
we have followed the course ; a revolution, in fact, has 
passed over Ireland nearly as thorough as the revolution 
which has transformed France. The most distinctive 
feature of this metamorphosis, as it may be called, has 
been the fall of Protestant Ascendency, and all that this 
implies ; but there have been other features of extreme 
importance. Catholic Ireland is a people of about three 
millions and a half, regarding it as a whole, it may be 
said that it has completely and long emerged from the 
thraldom which was its lot through nearly all the eighteenth 
century. It has been fully brought within the pale of the 
State ; it is beset by no hindrances in the race of life ; 
it is under the rule of a law that has ceased to be a 
respecter of persons. The Catholic aristocracy, noble 
pariahs a hundred years ago, are the equals of their 
Protestant fellows, and, indeed, can hardly be distinguished 
from them ; they have given many eminent men to the 
public service ; not a few have made a name for them- 

330 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

selves in Parliament. Many Catholics have become large 
owners of land ; the Catholic trading and professional 
classes, if still not numerous and not powerful, have 
risen extraordinarily in the social scale. As for the 
mass of the Catholics it is still, to a considerable extent, 
a mere peasantry ; but it comprises thousands of men of 
substance ; its resources of all kinds have immensely 
increased; if still nominally, for the most part, under 
superiors, divided from it in race and faith, it has been 
set free from the domination of these, and has acquired 
rights and privileges which would have been deemed im- 
possible even thirty years ago. Presbyterian Ireland has 
a population of about half a million of souls ; it is still a 
community in the main of traders and farmers, distinct 
from the classes above it in many ways ; but it has had 
the full advantage of the expansion of the wealth of 
Ulster ; and the Presbyterian peasant has the benefits of 
the same law in his interest as his Catholic fellow. As 
for Protestant Ireland it is a people about six hundred 
thousand in number; it contains the same classes it con- 
tained a century ago ; and its members are scattered over 
all parts of the country. But it has long ceased to be an 
exclusive ruling caste ; the revolution which has taken place 
in Ireland is especially apparent in the Protestants of nearly 
all classes. They are still a majority in commerce and the 
learned professions ; the great trading firms of Ireland are, 
for the most part, Protestant, and so have been the leading 
men in medicine and at the Bar. But the Protestants of 
the lower orders, who had once the advantages of a domi- 
nant class, are now at a disadvantage in many of the walks 
of life ; they are a small minority in the midst of a Catholic 
people, which certainly has no sympathy with them. The 
most remarkable, however, of all these changes is that which 
has occurred in the position of the Protestant landed gentry. 
A hundred years ago these men were lords of all that they 
surveyed ; they had a monopoly of honours and power in 
the State ; they were the masters of a Catholic race little 
better than helots. They have lost and for ever this pride 

IRELAND IN 1898 331 

of place ; the semblance of authority they retain is a mere 
shadow; they are without political and even much social 
influence; they are controlled by the bureaucratic Castle; 
they are isolated amidst a population often not friendly ; 
compared to their forefathers they have been reduced to 
poverty. They have been stripped of the power which 
made them a ruling class ; if, as we have said, they at one 
time had much in common with the old noblesse of Mon- 
archic France, they at present resemble in many points 
that noblesse after the 4th of August, shorn of their dignities 
and not lords even of their own estates. 

This revolution has gravely affected the whole political 
and social life of Ireland ; but it is most conspicuous in 
her landed relations especially important in an agricultural 
country, and also because of her history in the past. The 
lines of the old Irish land system still exist ; but they are 
the lineaments of a phantom compared to those of a living 
being. Absenteeism still very largely prevails ; but, as has 
been the case for at least sixty years, absentee estates are 
much better managed than they were in the times before the 
Union ; for example Wakefield, a very acute observer, des- 
cribed the Devonshire domains in the South of Munster as 
in a state of misery in 181 2 ; they have long been the seat of 
,a flourishing tenantry. The old middleman tenures have 
all but disappeared with their numerous and complex social 
mischiefs ; it is to be hoped, at least, that the legislation of 
late years will not develop a second race of middlemen, 
and create another system of bad land tenure. In the three 
Southern Provinces and in half of the North the peasantry 
still live on the lands of landlords divided from them in 
religion and blood ; and this is the case to a considerable 
extent in Presbyterian Ulster. But they are no longer 
dependents of these men ; the subjection of the past has 
completely vanished ; the days of precarious tenancies, of 
unjust evictions, of the confiscation of the tenants' rights, of 
excessive rents, of other kinds of oppression, have become 
little more than traditions of evil, which, though unduly 
magnified, no doubt existed. The Irish tenant has acquired 

33* IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

proprietary rights in the soil, which more than vindicate the 
joint-ownership which, even thirty years ago, was not law- 
worthy ; he has, in many instances, become an owner of 
land at no charge to himself, by the help of the State ; and 
though the legislation which has had these results is open 
to the very gravest objections, it has certainly wholly trans- 
formed his status, and has virtually effaced the old rule of 
his landlord. He is, in a word, favoured, in an extraordinary 
way by law ; a century ago he was almost a predial serf ; 
he has now advantages which his class in England and 
Scotland does not possess and might well envy. The status 
of the Irish landlord, on the other hand, has been utterly 
degraded to his extreme detriment. He has not only been 
deprived of the power of doing wrongful acts, which, what- 
ever may be said, were far from frequent ; he has practically 
had his lands taken from him, in the sense of real and 
uncontrolled ownership. He is little more now than a 
pensioner on his former estate ; he has scarcely any power 
over his former tenants ; he cannot even contract for his 
rents ; these are determined, for the most part, by a tribunal 
of the State, which has carried out a policy against his 
interests, and has confiscated his property by an unjust 
process. The land system of Ireland, in short, has been 
almost turned upside down for the benefit of one class and 
to the harm of another, during the period from 1870 to the 
present time. 

The order of things in Ireland has thus been immensely 
changed ; the change in the sentiments of the community, 
which has followed, although marked, has been less decisive. 
The feelings, the opinions, the ideas of Catholic, Presby- 
terian, and Protestant Ireland still largely run in the grooves 
of the past, and retain a great deal of their old character. 
The Catholics of the upper and the higher middle classes 
have acquired self-reliance and independence ; they are less 
timid and inert than their forefathers were ; they are, for the 
most part, loyally attached to the British connection. If we 
except the aristocracy of noble birth, many men of these 
orders were in the ranks of the United Irishmen ; very few 

IRELAND IN 1898 333 

took part in the movement led by Parnell ; not one, we 
believe, among the landed gentry. As for the humbler 
classes and the Catholic peasantry, they have felt the 
influence of education and increased knowledge ; they 
have shaken the yoke of Protestant Ascendency off, at 
least, to a very considerable extent ; they stand, so to 
speak, on a higher plane of existence. But they are still 
largely a passive and easily-led mass ; they have exchanged 
their old masters, in a great measure, for new ; they are, in 
too many instances, the dupes of mere demagogues ; and, 
as always, they bow to the will of their priests if not so 
submissively as a century ago. They have been injured, 
too, by contact with the Fenianism of the United States ; 
they are not free from socialistic and wild ideas ; they have 
been demoralised by the Land and the National Leagues, 
wherever these have had real power, and by the agrarian 
legislation of 1881-87. Essentially Celts, they show the 
Celtic tendencies ; they will often remain quiescent, for a 
a long period, and then, at the bidding of leaders they trust, 
they will suddenly break out into vehement passion, and do 
mischief in movements of extreme violence. They have 
shown these characteristics over and over again, and very 
decidedly, even of late years ; and these classes, which un- 
happily form the principal part of Catholic Ireland, are in 
no sense loyal to British rule, and are more or less dis- 
contented with the state of things around them. They 
supply the multitudes which shout sedition at mob gather- 
ings assembled by designing men ; and though nothing 
probably could induce them to rise like their ancestors in 
1798, for the wrongs of that time are things of the past, and 
they have little really to complain of save too common 
poverty, still they have no sympathy with existing law and 
government, and they are not attached to the institutions 
under which they live. The fact is unfortunate ; but if we 
look back to the history of Ireland in the remote past, nay, 
even in the last hundred years, it is intelligible to fair and 
reflecting minds. The immense majority of the Catholic 
Irish belong to a race which has cruelly suffered ; even in 

334 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

the present century they have emerged only slowly and 
painfully from a state of subjection ; above all, as a general 
rule, they have only obtained concessions and acquired 
rights through agitation and by giving trouble. No wonder, 
then, that they retain traditions of the past ; that they are 
jealous, suspicious, not reconciled to our rule, that a kind 
of vague disaffection exists among them, that they are not 
friendly to England and refuse her a sign of gratitude. To 
gain the hearts of these masses, and to win their true 
allegiance, ought to be one of the first objects of British 
statesmanship ; but this can only be the gradual work 
of time, and of wise, prudent, and just government ; it will 
not be accomplished by the use of nostrums of a political 
or a social kind. 

The Presbyterian Irish have changed more in sentiments 
and feelings than the Irish Catholics. They are still widely 
divided from the aristocracy who own the land ; they retain 
the stubborn character of the Teutonic Scotsman ; they are 
not free from socialistic ideas as regards the land, due 
largely to the legislation of recent times ; they have been 
clamouring of late for what is known as " the compulsory 
purchase " of their landlords' estates, that is, for an act of 
robbery by the State and for a bribe for themselves. But 
the people which filled the army of Washington and fought 
against us in the great American War, and which was at 
heart rebellious, in 1795-8, have become for long years 
devoted to our rule ; they are the determined supporters of 
the Union. While they stand completely apart from the 
Catholic Irish, they have forgotten the vain dreams of the 
United Irishmen. They now form the flower of the popula- 
tion of Ulster ; it has been the chief triumph achieved by 
the Union that they have become fast friends of the British 
connection. The fall of Protestant Ascendency and its 
manifold results have not sensibly affected the tone of 
opinion of the Protestant Irish towards the race from which 
they have sprung. They also firmly uphold the Union 
which a century ago they generally disliked ; they have 
remained true to England and the State, much as they have 

IRELAND IN 1898 335 

suffered from the revolution which has destroyed the 
domination, at one time their birthright. Yet it would 
be idle to deny that real discontent rankles in the hearts 
of the large majority of the landed gentry. Undoubtedly 
they held a position they ought not to have held ; they 
formed a ruling caste, planted in the land by conquest and 
confiscation of the worst kind, to lord it over a subject race. 
Undoubtedly they had excessive power, which, from the 
nature of the case, they sometimes abused, though for a 
century and a half they have not been mere oppressive 
tyrants. But they were placed in this position by England 
and English Kings and Parliaments, and they bitterly feel 
that in the last half century they have not only been shorn 
of their old authority and have suffered from spoliation of 
the most sinister kind and that effected under the pretence of 
law, but that over and over again they have been deceived, 
nay, betrayed by the assurances and pledges of British 
statesmen. No class in the Three Kingdoms has been so 
grossly wronged from the days of O'Connell to the present 
time. We need only refer to the Encumbered Estates 
Acts, to the dicta of Lord Palmerston against Tenant Right, 
to the speeches of Lords Clarendon and Carlisle promoting 
eviction, to the promises of Mr. Gladstone in 1870, to the 
ruinous legislation of the last few years. They have, in fact, 
been made scapegoats of a mean and thoroughly selfish 
policy, repeated on a great many occasions ; and this, 
though they have been, and still are, the truest champions 
of British rule in Ireland, and though in her southern pro- 
vinces, at least, they form the best elements of civilisation 
and progress. It should not be forgotten that the declared 
foes of England described them accurately as the " British 
garrison," the annihilation of which was their first object in 
their conspiracy against the State in Ireland. 

A spirit of lawlessness, widely prevalent, was, we have 
seen, a marked characteristic of the Ireland of the last 
century. It would be untrue to assert that this evil spirit 
has been exorcised from the Ireland of this day, or that 
the whole Irish community is a law-abiding people. The 

336 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

agrarian movements of 1879-82, and again of 1886-7, 
accompanied, as they were, by disorder and crime, 
unhappily form a proof to the contrary ; and so is the 
power acquired by the Land and the National League 
organisations distinctly opposed to the law. It is unques- 
tionable, too, that, even at this moment, a conspiracy 
against our rule in Ireland exists ; feeble as it has become, 
it makes itself manifest in denunciations of England and 
her rights, in exultation at any reverse that befalls her arms, 
in avowed sympathy with her enemies in any part of the 
world, in shriekings against " landlordism " at public meet- 
ings, in boasts that the " patriots " at the present day seek 
the objects of the United Irishmen by other means, in 
celebrations of the rising of 1798. Yet this lawlessness, if 
we carefully look back, is much less than it was a century 
ago, is a mere shadow of what once was a dangerous sub- 
stance. The agrarian movements of late years were of a 
foreign origin outside Ireland ; they were at most confined 
to a few counties ; they never had a hold on Protestant 
Ulster ; they had no support from the better and wealthy 
classes. Compare this with the state of things which 
existed in Ireland in 1795-8, and the difference will be at 
once apparent. The lawlessness of the last twenty years 
was as nothing to that which prevailed when a rebel Direc- 
tory sat in Dublin, when a Geraldine was ready to appear 
in the field, when even gentlemen of high degree were 
involved in treasonable plots and designs. Nor was the 
anarchy caused by the Land and the National Leagues 
nearly as far spread as the anarchy of the Tithe War ; nor 
were the crimes of the later period half as numerous as 
those of the earlier time. It should be remarked, too, and 
this is important, that the Whiteboyism, the Ribbonism, and 
the secret societies, which were the curse of Ireland a 
century ago, and continued until, so to speak, yesterday, 
seem to have become, in a great degree, extinct. Too much 
is not to be made of this ; but Ireland has been almost free 
for a time from these terrible signs of social disorder. On 
the whole, it may be said with truth that if lawlessness in 

IRELAND IN 1898 337 

Ireland has not disappeared, it is not nearly as formidable 
as it once was ; it does not exist among the upper classes, 
and among the middle is seldom seen ; it is confined to a 
narrowing area, and receives infinitely less support than was 
the case in another age. And nothing is more certain than 
that this bad influence is by many degrees more under the 
control of the law and subject to the repressive power of the 
State than it was in 1798, or even at a later period. The 
Irish Parliament and its Executive could never cope success- 
fully with Whiteboyism and its deeds of blood ; and was 
almost paralysed by the rising of a hundred years ago ; the 
Land and the National Leagues were promptly suppressed 
when the Government chose to make use of its power. It 
is scarcely necessary to add that the social lawlessness, so 
general in Ireland three generations ago, especially among 
the landed gentry, has long ago become a thing of the 

As we pass from the present state of Ireland to her institu- 
tions, the disappearance of her Parliament at once strikes 
us. That Parliament was the Assembly of an oligarchy of 
sect ; it was filled with corruption and bad influence ; its 
legislation was seldom in the interest of the people ; this was 
at times very unjust and draconic. It contained, neverthe- 
less, many remarkable men ; and its administration of Irish 
affairs, though often marked by jobbing, was not devoid of 
insight. It is now useless to inquire whether, as some have 
thought, it would have fulfilled the noble ideal of Grattan, 
and expanded into a truly National Parliament, embracing 
within its sphere Irishmen of every race and faith, recon- 
ciling the discords and feuds of ages ; it was certainly 
abolished by evil means, and at a singularly inauspicious 
time ; but it could hardly have survived the shocks of 
1798-9, and its extinction probably was a necessity of 
the day. Its disappearance, however, was not without bad 
results, long manifest to impartial and well-informed Irish- 
men. It afforded an arena to able men for the display of 
their eloquence and fine parts ; this was especially the case 
with the great Irish gentry, and in a lesser degree with the 


338 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

Irish Bar ; the successors of Flood, Foster, Newport, and 
many other worthies have not found a place for themselves 
in the Imperial Parliament. But a worse result was that 
foreseen by Grattan ; the Irish Parliament, bad institution 
as it was, did form an organ of opinion, in a certain sense, 
national ; this, in a country like Ireland, distracted by old 
divisions and with a weak middle class, was of great 
importance ; to the want of such an organ we may partly 
ascribe much that has been worst in Irish politics since the 
Union, and even much that has been bad in Irish social life, 
especially the decay of patriotic and public spirit, and the 
unquestionable increase of dissensions of class. It is diffi- 
cult, too, not to connect the fall of the Irish Parliament with 
the state of the representation of Ireland for many years, 
though the two phenomena are, to a great extent, distinct. 
The scornful prediction of Grattan need not be repeated ; 
but it is notorious how that representation has declined, 
steadily and continuously, since the Union, and especially 
since the Emancipation Act of 1829, and how degraded it is 
in its present condition. Since the distinguished men who 
went from College Green to Westminster passed gradually 
away in the course of time, the " Irish Members," as they 
are rather contemptuously called, have never had many great 
names in the House of Commons ; but contemporaries of 
O'Connell, Sheil, and several others were certainly superior 
to their successors of this day. The great majority of these 
are now split into angry factions, composed of instruments 
of the Catholic priesthood, of leaders of the Land and 
National Leagues, of followers of Parnell and of waiters on 
fortune ; and they have little capacity, weight, or influence. 
Some of these men have revolutionary objects at heart, 
especially the destruction of the Irish landed gentry ; but 
just now they do not often show their hands ; nearly 
three-fourths of them seem to be content to be dragged, as 
was the case thirty years ago, at the tail of the self-styled 
Liberal party, which cannot do without their votes, but 
regards them with distrust. Ireland was, perhaps, never so 
ill-represented before ; her Conservative members are a mere 

IRELAND IN 1898 339 

handful ; it is characteristic of Radical views, that Trinity 
College, which at present sends two very able and indepen- 
dent Irishmen to look after its interests in the House of 
Commons, and, of course, to play their part in the con- 
sideration of Irish affairs, was to be deprived of its members 
in a Home Rule Parliament. 

We have already referred to the Disestablished Church of 
Ireland, separated from the State by the measure of 1869 ; 
further comments on the subject would be superfluous. 
The organisation and government of that Church attest the 
energy and the capacity of the Irish Protestant race and the 
moderate religious views of the immense majority ; unques- 
tionably it is far more a spiritual power, more abounding in 
the " living water " from a divine source, than it was in the 
times when it leaned on the Castle. The only danger which 
threatens it is, we have said, the impoverishment of the 
landed gentry, the class which, in the main, upholds it ; this 
is one of the reasons that the Irish Catholic priesthood 
and the National League have had some objects in common. 
As for the Irish Catholic Church it has considerably 
changed, even since the days of O'Connell and the Repeal 
movement. Its material resources have enormously 
increased ; they appear in its fine cathedrals and places of 
worship, and also in the number and wealth of its religious 
houses and schools. Externally, there has been a great 
Catholic revival in Ireland in the last half century ; and the 
Church still possesses supreme authority over probably five- 
sixths of Catholic Ireland. Nevertheless, that influence is 
not what it was ; the growth of education and socialistic 
ideas have weakened it to an appreciable extent ; the 
Church has suffered from the alliance with the National 
League of too large a number of its less experienced clergy ; 
and a party of Catholics exists in Ireland, which refuses to 
bow to its rule in politics, and regards its pretensions with 
suspicion and dislike. The last twenty years have signally 
shown how lamentable it has been that the Catholic Church 
of Ireland was not honourably endowed by the State, as 
Pitt and his best successors desired, and as was, perhaps, 

340 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

feasible had Mr. Gladstone chose. Had this been the case, 
the Church would not have been compelled to follow, to 
some extent, movements of which its most far-sighted heads 
disapproved ; it would certainly have condemned the Land 
and National Leagues as these were unequivocally con- 
demned at Rome. For the rest, the Irish Catholic Church 
is no friend of Protestant England, or even of the institu- 
tions which exist in Ireland ; if we look back at History 
this cannot cause surprise. It is, nevertheless, a great Con- 
servative power, which it should be an object of a wise policy 
to win to the side of law and order in Ireland ; and it 
should never be forgotten that England owes a great debt 
to it for what it has accomplished in the past. It is mainly 
due to the work of the Catholic Church of Ireland that its 
persecuted and proscribed communion did not become a 
people of brutalised savages under the Penal Code of the 
eighteenth century. 

The intellect of Ireland, at the present time, seems to be 
less brilliant and less fruitful than it was in the generation 
before the Union. Ireland, indeed, possesses eminent 
names in Letters, Science, and the Fine Arts ; but she 
has no thinker to be compared with Burke, no dramatist 
like the author of the " School for Scandal," no novelist 
who approaches Maria Edgeworth. She can boast of public 
speakers of merit, of luminaries of the Bar, of a few able 
men in politics ; but she has no orator to be named with 
Grattan and with many others in her old Parliament, no 
advocate equal to Curran, O'Connell, Plunket, no states- 
man to stand beside Grattan, Foster, Sir Laurence Parsons, 
and others of that time. Much of her best intellect has 
flourished in foreign lands ; it has not found a field for its 
power at home ; this is notably the case with the great 
landed gentry, few of whom have given, or could give proof 
of the capacity and talents of their fathers a century ago. 
Education in Ireland has made real progress ; the great 
majority of the Irish people are as well instructed, perhaps, 
in the rudiments, as the great majority of the English ; and 
secondary and high education has, on the whole, improved. 

IRELAND IN 1898 341 

But a fifth part of the community even now cannot read or 
write ; and, with the exception of Trinity College, which 
has made a distinct advance in the course of a century, in 
all that constitutes a great place of learning, the institutions 
for the education of the middle and higher classes are not 
all that they ought to be, and are, at best, inadequate. We 
have explained the causes of this before ; enough to say 
here that ample and wise reforms, in harmony with Irish 
aspirations and wants, are certainly required and should be 
effected ; the standard of education of the better kind in 
Ireland is still much lower than the same standard in 
England and Scotland. As to the administration of justice 
in Ireland, it is scarcely necessary to say that this has been 
simply transformed with the best results ; undue severity, 
partiality, corruption on the Bench, whether in its higher or 
lower spheres, have been absolutely unknown for two genera- 
tions at least ; and though judges and magistrates have, of 
late years, unhappily been compelled to come in conflict 
with agents of the Land and the National Leagues, their 
acts have never been seriously impugned. Of the results of 
the Poor Law, I have written before ; the system, 
undoubtedly is not liked in Ireland ; but, on the whole, 
though not very well administered, it has established the 
principle that Property must support Poverty, and this has 
had beneficial effects. It can hardly be said that the tone of 
public opinion in Ireland has made a real improvement. 
It still represents the old divisions of race and faith, and the 
animosities and feuds of class ; it is still passionate, unre- 
flecting, and deplorably weak ; it is wanting in moderation 
and breadth of view, in political sagacity and public spirit ; 
it embodies itself in a Press, not without ability, but 
characterised by the same defects. And it is unnecessary to 
repeat that, as I have pointed out, Ireland is far behind Great 
Britain in civilisation and material wealth, relatively farther, 
at least in some respects, than she was before the Rebellion 
of 1798, and that if her middle class has risen in the social 
scale, it is still comparatively weak, and possesses little 

34 2 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

The present condition of Ireland is largely due to 
calamitous events in bygone ages, but, in this century, it has 
been evolved, under the Union, and all that has been 
incidental to it. That great settlement has not ful- 
filled the sanguine hopes of Pitt ; in many respects it 
has proved to be a failure. Even as a Protestant Union, 
in the phrase of that day, it was a half measure badly 
accomplished ; it only extinguished the Irish Parliament, 
by evil means and at a disastrous time ; it left Ireland, 
to a great extent, a separate State ; we see the results, 
as Foster and Grattan predicted, in the Repeal and the 
Home Rule movements. But its operation as to Catholic 
Ireland was far worse ; it was dishonoured by a grave breach 
of faith ; it left Catholic Ireland deprived of rights, which 
an Irish Parliament certainly would have conceded ; it 
retarded its liberation for many years ; it was not accom- 
panied by the great measures which Pitt saw were essential 
to its success, Catholic Emancipation, the Commutation of 
the Tithe, and a provision for the Irish Catholic clergy, this 
last of supreme importance, but now become impossible. 
It has been, too, if not a consequence, at least a circumstance 
connected with the Union, that the organic structure of 
society in Ireland has been transformed with results not 
beneficial in many respects ; the power of an aristocracy 
has been destroyed, and replaced by a bureaucratic system 
of rule, not unlike the centralised administration of the later 
Bourbons, the vices of which Tocqueville has so vividly 
described. Under the Union England has often been 
estranged from Ireland, made hostile, or, what is worse, 
neglectful ; if parts of Ireland have become attached to 
England, the greater part is not in sympathy with her, nay, 
remains sullen and disaffected at heart. And it would be 
idle to deny that a great deal of the Irish legislation of the 
Imperial Parliament has, since the Union, been faulty in the 
extreme, especially in all that relates to the land. It has been 
marked by the incapacity to understand Ireland, which has 
been the common error of so many public men ; it has been 
occasionally selfish, unjust, oppressive, as we can clearly 

IRELAND IN 1898 343 

perceive in the province of finance, 1 in which Ireland has 
been sacrificed to British commerce, as Grattan foresaw 
would be the case. Even when it has been beneficent and 
wise, it has, over and over again, been too late, as we see in the 
instances of Catholic Emancipation and the Commutation 
of the Tithe, and even then it has been often extorted by 
agitation and a war of classes, and injured by suspicion, 
aversion, and distrust. The British administration of 
Ireland has had the same defects ; many Englishmen who 
have directed Irish affairs have been able and distinguished 
men, but very few have been, in a real sense, successful ; 
the best Lord-Lieutenant and the best Chief Secretary of the 
last eighty years have been Irishmen, for " they were racy 
of the soil," and knew the Irish people. Nor is it less certain 
that while Ireland has had a most potent influence on the 
affairs of England, nay, has more than once determined 
British and Imperial policy, Irish interests have, in the course 
of the century, been more than once set aside and neglected, 
under the stress of British and Imperial questions, and, 
above all, that Ireland and her fortunes have repeatedly been 
made the prize of the strife of British factions, with results 
that true Irishmen can only deplore. The Commutation of 
the Tithe was confessedly a necessary reform ; how long 
was it delayed by party manoeuvring and wrangling about 
the Appropriation Clause ! The policy that disestablished the 
Irish Protestant Church was just, but it was carried out, not 
for the real good of Ireland — it would otherwise have been 
a very different measure — but mainly in order to unite the 
divided British Liberals, and to gratify that " Nonconformist 
Conscience " which aspires to the pulling down of all 
established churches. Many similar instances might be 
referred to ; one of the last and most striking is the support 
given by English and Scotch Radicals to Home Rule ; they 

1 See the remarkable observations of Mr. Childers, Report p. 160. I 
have only space for a few words : "Just as Ireland suffered in the last 
century from the protective and exclusive policy of Great Britain, 
so she has been at a disadvantage in this century from the adoption of 
an almost unqualified Free Trade policy for the United Kingdom." 

344 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

advocate a policy they really dislike, and dangle it before 
an Irish faction, because they cannot dispense with its 

These results, doubtless to be regretted, have not all been 
caused by the Union ; many have only been coincident 
with it. Let us, however, take the other side of the national 
account, and consider the good which the Union has 
brought in its train. It is now left out of sight, but should 
not be forgotten, that England might never have triumphed 
in the Great War, had Ireland not been ruled by the Imperial 
Parliament, from 1800 to 181 5 ; loyal as the Irish Parlia* 
ment indisputably was, a strong centralised Legislature and 
Executive was required in our struggle for life and death with 
Napoleon. This, probably, is the best excuse that can be 
made for the very questionable conduct of Pitt ; the Union, 
in the existing state of the world, was a necessity of State to 
be secured at any hazard and cost. The Union, however, 
has been attended with good results for Ireland, on the 
whole, far outweighing the incidental evils. It has been 
owing to this measure that the transition from Protestant 
Ascendency, and its numberless ills, has been accomplished 
in Ireland, with errors, indeed, but without extreme social 
convulsions and shocks ; it is difficult to suppose that, after 
the events of 1798, this could have been effected by an Irish 
Parliament, though it could have been in 1794-5. Ireland 
has, on the whole, made progress since the Union, if this 
has been comparatively slow and small ; this would probably 
have been less under an Irish Parliament, if we bear in 
mind what the state of the country was in 1800-1, and the 
insecurity, the ruin, and the furious passions of class which 
the unhappy rebellion had producedand developed. Under 
the Union, besides, the great grievances from which Ireland 
was suffering a century ago, have been removed, often 
indeed, not wisely, and, in many instances, too late ; but 
the Tithe is gone ; the dominant Church has fallen ; all that 
was vicious in Irish "landlordism" is a thing of the 
past ; education has been widely diffused ; the Irish land 
system, utterly bad as it is, has been reformed in the 

IRELAND IN 1898 345 

interest of the occupiers of the soil. The two principal 
benefits, however, which have followed the Union — and 
these have been decisive and far-reaching — are that Presby- 
terian Ireland, hostile in 1791-8, has become devotedly at- 
tached to England, and that the loyalty of Protestant 
Ireland has grown stronger ; and above all, that the authority 
of the Imperial Parliament and its Executive have kept 
down the strife and angry passions of Irish factions, if it has 
not reconciled animosities of class and faith, and that it has 
made the law more generally respected and obeyed than 
was ever the case in the days of the Irish Parliament. This, 
assuredly, is an enormous gain ; it is, perhaps, the one great 
advantage that can be set off against the evils caused by the 
decline of the landed gentry and the ascendency of the 
bureaucratic rule of the Castle, which has secured for law a 
more effective sanction than had existed in Ireland at any 
previous time. And if we calmly reflect what the state of 
Ireland was after the horrible catastrophe of 1798, we shall 
probably understand how it has come to pass that the Union 
has done less good than was expected from it. 

The Union has endured for well-nigh a century ; it is one 
of the cardinal institutions of the State ; it has become, so 
to speak, a part of the frame of these kingdoms ; it is in- 
separably connected with the national life. England has 
been called upon to undo this great settlement, at the 
bidding of a conspiracy formed in distant lands, and at the 
instigation of a statesman, in his old age, false to his f ormer 
and better self, against the will of loyal Protestant and 
Presbyterian Ireland, and of the large majority of the people 
of Great Britain, because a part of Catholic Ireland is dis- 
affected to our rule. This plain statement of the case ought 
to be sufficient to convince impartial and thinking men of 
the real nature of a thoroughly bad policy, which, as it were 
but yesterday, would have been treated in the Councils of 
England with the contempt with which Canning treated it 
in another age. A very few remarks may, however, be made, 
for the British Radical party has, in words at least, declared 
itself to be pledged to Home Rule for Ireland. Mr. Glad- 

346 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

stone has been rather a great economist than a far-sighted 
or profound statesman ; he has never shown, in his long 
career, that he really understood- the noble art of govern- 
ment. He has twice attempted practically to break up the 
Union ; his most ardent admirers would probably now 
admit that his efforts to set up in Ireland a separate Parlia- 
ment were sorry and most disastrous failures, regarded by 
England with well-marked aversion. The irremediable faults 
of his Home Rule Bills, their anomalies, their absurdities, 
above all, the ruinous mischiefs they would have caused, 
have been fully and effectually exposed ; I have touched the 
subject in this brief narrative ; it is unnecessary further to 
deal in it. It may, however, be affirmed, almost with cer- 
tainty, that Home Rule for Ireland will never again be 
presented to Parliament in these forms ; should this evil 
policy be adopted once more by a British Minister, it will, 
we know, be under quite other conditions. We are now 
told that England, Scotland, Ireland, and perhaps Wales, 
are to be treated "to Home- Rule all round"; in other 
words, that three or four local Parliaments are to be formed 
for the management of the local affairs of these realms, and 
that Imperial affairs are to be directed by an Imperial 
Council. It is not easy to believe that this project has been 
seriously made ; the Radicals must know that it could not 
become law ; and there is reason to think that they put it 
forward to please and to dupe their Irish allies. Not a 
single community in the Three Kingdoms has shown that it 
desires a policy of the kind ; and the objections to it 
cannot be overcome. It would mean that a new and written 
Constitution would replace the ancient and unwritten Con- 
stitution of this Imperial State ; and that a Federation, 
essentially a weak Government, and from the days of the 
Achaean League to those of the United States, liable to 
internal dissension, intrigue, and disruption, would be put 
in the stead of the undivided and powerful British 
Monarchy. This should be enough to prove the folly of 
such a scheme ; but other objections are at least as decisive. 
No stable Federation has ever been formed out of the 

IRELAND IN 1898 347 

fragments of a dismembered Monarchy ; it requires that 
organised states should exist beforehand ; and no Federa- 
tion could long endure if one State greatly preponderates 
in strength. These simple facts absolutely condemn this 
policy ; England, in truth, under this order of things, 
would annihilate such a Federation, at the first real 
trial, as easily as Gulliver broke the petty chains of 

Home Rule, whatever the form it may assume, means the 
creation in Ireland of a Parliament of her own, and of an 
Executive dependent on it. This policy, I believe, disguise 
it as you may by securities, safeguards, and devices on 
paper, would be a calamity for Great Britain and Ireland 
alike. From an Imperial point of view it means that a 
government, hostile to England, almost from the nature of the 
case, could threaten the main avenues of British commerce, 
and could give the enemies of England, in the event of 
war, a base of operations of supreme importance. It means, 
further, that the Parliament of the United Kingdom is to be 
restricted, perhaps paralysed, in the very seat of its power ; 
and that England is to abandon populations of her own 
race and faith, as decaying Rome abandoned her most loyal 
provinces. It is scarcely necessary to point out what would 
be the effect of such a policy in the judgment of foreign 
Powers ; it would be a confession of weakness and treachery, 
which might well combine a League of States, jealous of 
England, against her, and be the successor of a League of 
Cambray. From an Irish point of view it means turning 
everything upside down in Ireland, very probably civil war, 
certainly a strife of class like that of 1641, of 1691, of 1798, 
followed possibly by the establishment of a domination of 
sect more odious than any Ireland has yet seen, perhaps by 
reconquest, assuredly by general bankruptcy. It is difficult 
to imagine that Englishmen will ever sanction such things, 
or could be blind to the evident perils ; they have repudiated 
projects of the kind on two occasions ; and the English 
democracy possesses the strong political instinct which their 
rulers have displayed through a great history. And this is 

348 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

the more certain because the demand for Home Rule is un- 
real and fictitious in Ireland itself, and is put forward on pre- 
tences altogether untrue. The cry against the Union had 
never any force in Ireland, unless it was accompanied by 
other cries, especially by a cry for agrarian plunder ; 
" rapine," as Mr. Gladstone rightly exclaimed, was associated 
with "dismemberment" in 1880-2, and this has been seen 
in other Irish movements ; nor can it be forgotten that the 
defeat of Home Rule did not evoke a sign of discontent in 
Ireland, because, whatever demagogues may say, the Irish 
peasantry do not care about it. Home Rule, too, it must be 
borne in mind, is justified only on the assumption that 
Ireland is a " nation " with " national " ideas and aims ; but 
this assumption is opposed to the* plainest facts of History. 
Ireland, no doubt, might have become u a nation," but 
the events of centuries have made this impossible ; she has 
for ages been divided into three peoples, locally united but 
morally standing apart ; and these have no "national" 
aspirations in any rational sense. The basis of the argu- 
ment for Home Rule fails ; and as to the pleas that all that 
Ireland seeks is the " management of her own affairs," and 
that the "majority of her population " demands this, these 
shibboleths can deceive no reflecting mind. Ireland's 
" management of her own affairs," involves a revolution in 
the polity of the State ; and as to the " demand of the 
majority" this begs the question, for England must have a 
voice in the matter, and ignores the circumstances that 
looking at Ireland alone, five-sixths of the property and 
intelligence of the country maintain that this demand, if 
conceded, will have the direst results, and that, after all, as 
Burke once drily observed, " Government is not a mere 
affair of arithmetic." 

The Union, therefore, must be maintained, for the security 
of the State and Three Kingdoms ; after the experience of 
1886 and 1895, this fundamental law will probably not be 
assailed. The degradation of the Irish electorate, and the 
excessive representation of Ireland in the House of Commons, 
are questions which statesmen will have to consider ; but 

IRELAND IN 1898 349 

these, like the reform of the House of Lords, will, doubtless, 
be postponed until the next Reform Act shall effect another 
Constitutional change. The Union, however, has brought 
ills with it ; can nothing be done to remove or diminish 
these, as our Parliamentary system exists at present ? These 
ills, and they cannot be denied, run ultimately up to the 
want of knowledge of Ireland, and to the resulting want of 
sympathy, which have been the distinctive faults of British 
public men, and of English and Scotchmen in the Houses at 
Westminster, 1 and have long been but too obvious to well- 
informed Irishmen. These faults are partly due to defects 
in the English national character ; partly to the difficulty 
which a Teutonic race has in understanding a race, in the 
main, Celtic, especially when this is poor, backward, and on 
a low plane of civilisation and social life ; partly to the rapid 
and frequent changes in the administration of Irish affairs, 
caused by our mode of Parliamentary government ; but 
largely, too, it must be allowed, to the extravagance and the 
vehemence of so-called Irish opinion, from which sober- 
minded Englishmen and Scotchmen turn away with disgust. 
This ignorance and indifference, however, are grave evils ; 
they have been attended with unhappy results ; they should, 
if possible, in the direction of affairs of Ireland, be replaced 
by knowledge, experience, and a really kindly state of senti- 
ment. This object is one of extreme importance ; it would 
probably be, in a great measure, attained, were Parliament 
occasionally to assemble in the Irish capital, and to govern 
Ireland, as it were, on the spot. This is not a new and un- 
heard-of policy ; it was seriously proposed by distinguished 
Irishmen, and was entertained by the Whig Opposition, 
during the Repeal Movement of 1843 ; it was unfortunate that 

1 Dozens of passages from the writings of Swift and Burke, and 
from the speeches of Flood, Grattan, and other eminent Irishmen, 
might be quoted on this subject. I take a speech from O'Connell after 
the Union : — " We are governed by foreigners ; foreigners make out- 
laws ; ... as to Ireland, the Imperial Parliament has the additional 
disadvantage springing from want of interest and total ignorance. I do 
not exaggerate ; the ministers are in total ignorance of this country." 

35o IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

it was allowed to drop. 1 The inconveniences it might pro- 
duce would be mere trifles compared to the advantages it would 
certainly bring with it. It would be much that the presence 
of Parliament in College Green would necessarily add to the 
wealth of a poor country, and probably make Ireland an 
attractive resort for the traveller. But it would be infinitely 
more that Parliamentary Sessions in Dublin would gradually, 
but surely, make our British rulers familiar with Irish ideas 
and needs, would lead them to adapt legislation to these, 
would place them in contact with Irish feeling, would make 
them know Ireland, in a word, and touch their hearts. One 
of the best results, we believe, would be that they would 
learn how hollow and false is the cry for " Home Rule." 
Meanwhile Ireland requires the amending hand ; this 
should be applied with judgment and skill ; she is in need 
of large and searching reforms. Her land system has 
become a chaos of manifold ills ; it is impossible that it 
can remain in its present state if the community is to make 
steady and real progress. Political economy, despite Mr. 
Gladstone, has not fled from this planet to hide in Saturn ; 
it watches, so to speak, the ruin done in Ireland by the con- 
tempt that is shown to its well-known laws. Owing to the 
operation of the recent Land Acts, the rental of the Irish 
gentry has been recklessly cut down by tribunals which are 
simply a reproach to the State, and that though an impartial 
Commission had reported in 1 880-1, that Ireland, as a 
country, was not overrented, if overrenting existed in not 

1 See a remarkable letter from Lord Waveney in the Times, " Home Rule 
Reprint," vol. i. p. 303. Sheil, greatly trusted by the Whigs, referred to 
the subject at O'Connell's trial. Report, pp. 325-6. I quote a few sen- 
tences : " The benefits to Ireland, which would be derived from such a 
plan, nobody can doubt. It would have the advantages without the dangers 
of a Repeal of the Union. There would be no dismemberment of the 
Empire ; no Catholic Ascendency to be dreaded ; no predominance of 
one party over another. The intercourse between the two countries 
would be augmented to such an extent that their feelings would be 
identified ; national prejudices would be reciprocally laid aside. . . . 
You would see the country again inhabited by its ancient nobility. 
What a magnificent spectacle this city^ would then present ! " The 
whole of this fine passage deserves study and reflection. 

IRELAND IN 1898 351 

a few instances. 1 Agricultural depression, no doubt, exists 
in Ireland ; but it has been much less severe than in 
England and Scotland ; the market value of Irish land has 
scarcely really fallen ; and the wholesale and unjust reduc- 
tion of rents has, with other mischiefs, had this result, that 
by unduly increasing the price of the tenants' interest, it has 
subjected incoming tenants, when farms are bought and 
sold, to what practically are huge rack-rents. It is an 
incontestable fact that, of late years, through the proceed- 
ings of the Land Commission and its dependents, the value 
of the fee-simple in Ireland has been lowered fully a third, 
and the value of Tenant Right has been raised in the same 
proportion ; and no answer has been made to the plain 
inference, that this means a confiscation of landlords' 
property, veiled, indeed, and gradual, but not the less 
certain. Those who reflect on what confiscation involves, 
and especially a vast confiscation of the Irish land, that it 
destroys enterprise, banishes capital from the soil, and pre- 
vents free commerce in a main source of industry and 
wealth, will deem this an enormous evil, not to speak of the 
fatal precedents it has made for revolutionary legislation of 
a socialistic tendency. Yet this is only a part of the innu- 
merable ills which have flowed from the present system of 
the tenure of land in Ireland. The landlord has been 
divorced from his estate ; he is little more than a recipient 
of an annual sum, in the arrangement of which he has no 
voice ; he is, therefore, precluded, as it were by law, from 
improving what were his lands at one time, and he will not 
expend a shilling on them. The consequences have been 
already grave ; though, unquestionably, in the great mass 

1 I quote a significant passage from the Report of this Commission : 
" Though the amount of the rent was always at the discretion of the land- 
lord, and the tenant had, in reality, no voice in regulating what he had 
to pay, nevertheless it was unusual to exact what in England would have 
been considered as a full or fair commercial rent. Such a rent over 
many of the larger estates, the owners of which were resident, and 
took an interest in the welfare of their tenants, it has never been the 
custom to demand. The example has been largely followed, and is, to 
the present day, rather the rule than the exception in Ireland." 

35 2 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

of instances, Irish tenants have made the additions to their 
farms, still, in arterial drainage, and in bettering the breeds 
of animals, the Irish landlords have done a great deal in the 
past ; in these two particulars, as we have seen, there has 
been probably a falling off of late, and this is because the 
landlords, as was to be expected, have, under existing con- 
ditions, stopped their outlays. The whole case, neverthe- 
less, is a great deal worse, if we consider it from another 
and wider point of view. The lands of Ireland have been 
placed under what may be called leases for ever, renewable 
every fifteen years, through litigation, by a tribunal of the 
State, which fixes the rents they are to yield ; it is scarcely 
possible to conceive a more vicious system, one more 
pregnant with bad results and troubles. In these circum- 
stances the Irish tenant is not only subjected to a vexatious 
lawsuit, at short intervals of time, not only encouraged to 
distrust and dislike his old landlord, he is positively tempted 
and urged to run out and exhaust his farm, in order to 
effect a reduction of rent when the period of renewing his 
lease comes round. This process of deterioration has been 
going on apace ; it is but a repetition of what has occurred 
in Bengal where the ryots, under the Permanent Settlement, 
have succeeded in lowering greatly the amount of their 
rents ; agriculture in Ireland has, in consequence, suffered, 
and that to a very appreciable extent, not to refer to the 
animosities and ill-will which the system provokes. 1 It 
should be added, and this is important, that as the " fair " or 
"judicial " rents fixed by the State are many degrees lower 
than the true rents, this has necessarily caused subdivision 
and subletting, marked vices of the old Irish land system ; 
and this is gradually reproducing the almost extinct middle- 
man, the oppressor of serfs holding at rack-rents. 

This train of social evils has long made itself manifest ; 
the policy of what is called " Land Purchase " has been 
inaugurated in the hope of doing away with these, and of 
placing the Irish land system on a less unstable basis. We 

1 See on this point the mass of irrefutable evidence recorded by the 
Commission presided over by Sir Edward Fry. 

IRELAND IN 1898 353 

have already seen what that policy is ; landlords, who wish to 
sell their estates to their tenants, may obtain the price from 
the State, through the Land Commission ; and the moneys 
are advanced to the tenants, who have not to lay down a 
shilling themselves, and redeem the advance by paying an 
annuity, for a series of years, much lower than the legiti- 
mate rent. In the sense that these annuities have been 
reasonably well paid, and that the State has hitherto not 
suffered, this process has been, in the main, successful ; but 
this is only a very small part of the subject. The policy 
which plants an Irish tenant in his farm, not through a 
contribution or effort of his own, but by the medium of a 
gift, akin to a bribe, is, I am convinced, a bad policy ; it will 
never create a class of peasant owners, conservative, law 
abiding, hard working ; the experience of human nature 
teaches the exact contrary ; it is idle to argue from the case 
of the peasantry of France, who really purchased their lands, 
and, for that very reason, are a respectable and industrious 
order of men. It is untrue, I repeat, that these falsely named 
" purchasers " have, as a rule, improved the lands they have 
acquired ; the cultivation of them is often very bad ; in 
fact the best agriculture of Ireland, by many degrees, is that 
under the system of free contract, in the case of the few 
large farmers holding leases made anterior to 1881, and 
who have not had their rents fixed by the Land Commission, 
and have settled with their landlords in conformity with the 
state of the times. As we have seen, too, these " pur- 
chasers" have, in hundreds of instances, cut down the 
timber growing on their lands ; they are often needy and 
hopelessly sunk in debt ; and as the annuities they pay are 
far less than a true rent, they sublet, subdivide, and mortgage 
wholesale,, with all the evil consequences of acts of the kind. 1 
But whatever opinions exist on this subject, it is evident that 
■" Land Purchase," under these conditions, cannot materially 
affect the present land system for a very considerable space 
of time. Out of a sum of about .£40,000,000 set apart for 
this purpose, since 1885-91, little more than .£10,000,000 
1 1 can attest this from very large personal observation. 


354 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

have, we have said, been expended ; at this rate of progress 
it would take ages to affect a large transfer of the Irish land. 
Nor are the reasons difficult to perceive ; Irish tenants will 
not "purchase," while the Land Commission is whittling 
away rents progressively year after year ; they will wait for 
a basis of " purchase " more in their interest. Besides it is 
a complete mistake to suppose that the Irish peasant, in the 
Southern provinces at least, has any craving for freehold 
ownership ; such a tenure is contrary to the genius of a 
Celtic race ; he will accept it when it is for his clear advan- 
tage ; but the idea never entered his head until he took it in 
through Land League teaching. 

The present state of the Irish land system, and the 
failure of " Land Purchase," on voluntary lines, to effect 
rapidly a large transfer of the Irish land, have produced a 
demand, not without support, for what is called the " com- 
pulsory purchase," of all the estates of the Irish landlords, 
and for placing their tenants in their room as owners. It 
might be enough to say that this policy is not possible, and 
will be always rejected by the general taxpayer. In what- 
ever degree the Land Commission carries out the object of 
cutting down rent, the rented land of Ireland has never 
been valued at less than .£150,000,000 by fair judges ; it is 
still probably worth .£200,000,000 ; does any one suppose that 
Parliament would vote a sum equal, perhaps, to the ransom 
France paid to Germany, in order to make Irish tenants 
possessors of their farms ? This policy, nevertheless, could 
it be accomplished, would be unnatural, disastrous, and, in 
no doubtful sense, infamous. A volume on this subject 
might well be written ; I have only space for a very few sen- 
tences. Ireland is a land of a low watershed, of great sluggish 
rivers, of immense marshes and plains, of small towns 
widely apart from each other ; peasant ownership, on an 
extensive scale, could never flourish under such conditions. 
The process of " compulsory purchase " as proposed, means 
turning the tenant class of Ireland into owners everywhere, 
through what, I repeat, is morally a bribe ; these men would 
be, in the words of Burke, in an analogous instance, " rocked 

IRELAND I\ T 1898 355 

and dandled into their possessions " by the State, the 
"grantees of a confiscation/' wholesale and unjust; it is 
contrary to the very nature of things, that such a body of 
proprietors could become a loyal population of thrifty 
freeholders, could, in a reasonable sense, be prosperous. 
Let it not be forgotten that this is the very scheme put 
forward by the Land and the National Leagues ; Parnell, 
who understood Ireland, always insisted that the general 
transfer of the Irish land to its occupants would only make 
them more " patriotic " than before, that is better instruments 
to effect his ends ; and peasant owners thus artificially 
made would assuredly be wasteful, extravagant, and not 
industrious. They would, as a corresponding class is 
already doing, subdivide, sublet, and encumber their lands 
as a rule ; middleman tenures would grow up over whole 
counties ; large parts of Ireland would return to the state 
in which they were before 1845-7. This would be inevitable 
from the simple circumstance that these peasant owners 
would pay the State less than a natural rent ; it would be 
as certain as that water runs down a hill ; it would fall in 
with, and stimulate inveterate tendencies. What, too, would 
be the necessary results of the universal and forcible 
expropriation of the Irish landed gentry ? In the Southern 
Provinces of Ireland, at least, they form the best elements 
of civilisation and progress ; are these to be blotted out 
and to perish ? An Irish Local Government Bill will soon 
become law ; every one who knows Ireland must be aware — 
the leaders of the Land and the National Leagues form no 
exception — that it cannot be conducted with success, without 
the Irish landlords, who, as Grand Jurors, are the only 
class which has had any experience in County Government. 
" Compulsory Purchase," besides, is simply robbery ; no 
confiscation of the same kind has been effected in modern 
Europe, not even in the France of the Reign of Terror ; is 
Ireland once more to be made the victim of what she 
suffered in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, for the 
results of wholesale spoliation do not vary ? x 

1 It has been assumed by the advocates of " compulsory purchase " 

356 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

The policy of the " compulsory purchase" of the Irish 
land would have been laughed at as folly a few years ago ; 
it would not be listened to at the present time had it not 
been backed by several powerful interests, and found 
advocates in ignorant and self-sufficient writers. Lazy 
politicians, who have no thought of principle, and do not 
know Ireland, profess to believe it would make Irish 
Government an easier task, that it would save them a certain 
amount of trouble. The owners of the mortgages on 
Irish estates, English and Scotch capitalists, as a general 
rule, see in this process a probable means of realising 
securities, now in danger ; a very small minority of Irish 
landlords, encumbered beyond relief, hope that in this way 
they may save something for themselves from a shipwreck. 
The chief absentee landlords are perhaps not disinclined 
to part with their estates, at the cost of the State, and to 
invest the proceeds elsewhere ; a set of doctrinaires, who 
have never seen Ireland, and have never been in contact 
with a Celtic peasantry, imagine that, by converting them 
into owners of their farms, without requiring them to pay a 
shilling, and through an act of palpable and general wrong, 
they will be transformed into a people of loyal and thriving 
freeholders. But no statesman has pledged himself to this 
policy ; an overwhelming majority of Irish landlords regard 
it as shameful and cruel injustice ; and though a movement 
in its favour exists, it is to be hoped that it will be not 
carried out, as was the case of the Encumbered Estates Act, 
a scheme of confiscation that has proved worse than a 
failure. The avowed argument for "compulsory 
purchase" is, in fact, founded on grotesque ignorance. 
The legislation of 188 1-7 has, it is said, " created a dual 
ownership " in the Irish land ; this is a detestable state of 
things ; the knot must be cut by selling out the Irish 

that the Irish landed gentry, after having been deprived of their rented 
lands, would live at home on their demesnes, and be available for local 
duties and County Administration. This is in the highest degree 
improbable : after a treatment which, in the words of Burke, would 
have " made them displumed, degraded, metamorphosed, unfeathered, 
two-legged things," they would almost certainly leave Ireland. 

IRELAND IN 1898 357 

gentry by force. But, in the first place, this legislation no 
more "created dual ownership" in the Irish land system, than 
it " created " the mountains and lakes of Ireland ; it only 
developed it under the worst conditions. In the second 
place, this " dual ownership/' properly understood, is the 
natural mould of Irish land tenure ; it is the old joint 
ownership, which the Irish peasant has possessed, morally, in 
his farm for ages, at least in a great mass of instances ; it is 
the peculium which he wishes to have secured for him, and 
which he does not care to exchange for freehold owner- 
ship. And, in the third place, " dual ownership " is a far 
more general mode of land tenure than the single ownership 
which prevails in England, and in England alone ; we see 
it even in the English copyhold ; it is quite common all 
over the Continent, nor has it been incompatible with 
prosperity and peace. This idea about " dual ownership," 
in truth, only shows how little the subject has been con- 
sidered ; and, in the case of Ireland, it simply means that it 
suggests a policy which, from every point of view, would 
cause an agrarian revolution widespread and disastrous. It 
is at bottom the old idea of the Tudor lawyers : " Irish 
usages are bad, make them English by force." 

Voluntary "purchase," therefore, having had but little 
effect, and "compulsory purchase" being quackery and 
wrong, we are forced, by a kind of exhaustive process, 
to consider the Irish land system on the side of tenure, 
and to see how a reform of this is feasible, as affairs now 
stand. Every thinker from Burke to Stuart Mill, to Butt, 
and to Longfield, not to refer to other less distinguished 
names, have looked at the subject from this point of view ; 
it is the only one from which it can be regarded con- 
sistently with equity and sound policy. All have practically 
agreed on the main facts ; the occupiers of the soil in 
Ireland, in thousands of cases, have for centuries had a 
joint ownership in their farms ; this ought to be protected 
by a long or a perpetual tenure, at a reasonable rent that 
does not encroach on their rights. 1 It ought to be feasible 

1 See again Burke's "Tracts on the Popery Laws," vol. ii. p. 446, 

358 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

to effect a reform of Irish land tenure, that is in the relation 
of landlord and tenant, in harmony with these reasonable 
and true principles. With large exceptions in the cases of 
pastoral farms, of farms rightly the subjects of free contract, 
and of farms not of an agricultural kind, the rented lands of 
Ireland ought to be placed under a system of perpetual or 
long leases, so as to secure the rights of the tenant,;reserving 
to the landlords what may be called their royalties and the 
power to enforce their claims, not by eviction, but through 
a sale of the land. After the legislation of the last seventeen 
years, the rents of these leaseholds must be adjusted by the 
State ; but they ought not to be fixed by the Land Com- 
mission and its sub-Commissions, agencies which have an 
interest to work rent down, and with which Irishmen are 
not satisfied ; they ought not to be fixed at short intervals 
of time and through costly litigation — all this doing the 
mischief to which I have already referred ; they ought not 
to be fixed subject to claims for exemption, in respect of 
improvements — a prolific source of intolerable wrong, and 
of demoralisation and hard swearing frightful to think of. 1 
On the contrary, they should be fixed for the length of the 
leases ; and they should be fixed by a valuation made by 
the State, a certain allowance for improvements being made 
on the spot, with a right of appeal, but at the peril of law 
costs, to a tribunal consisting of a single judge of estab- 
lished reputation, one for each province, the judge being 
assisted by trained agricultural experts. Such a reform 
could not do perfect justice ; but it would be infinitely to 
be preferred to the present vicious system ; it would get rid 
of innumerable mischiefs at once ; it would enable land- 
lords and tenants to know their rights — a knowledge they 

ed. 1834; Mill > on "The Irish Land Question" ; Butt, "The Irish People 
and the Irish Land," ante; Longfield's essay in "Systems of Land 
Tenure," ante. 

1 " It has never been known in the memory of man," wrote Swift (Life 
by Craik, p. 139), " that an Irish tenant ever told the truth to his land- 
lord. ... If they paid you but a peppercorn a year they would be 
readier to ask abatement than to offer an advance ." This class has left 

IRELAND IN 1898 359 

practically do not now enjoy ; it would quiet possession, 
and moderate a war of class ; it would in all probability 
quicken agricultural progress. It is remarkable that Parnell, 
when in his constitutional mood, spoke strongly of a reform 
on these lines ; and Mr. Gladstone, no doubt conscious 
of the ills caused by his Land Act of 1881, if not 
very distinctly, expressed his assent. 1 The landlord, in 
justice, ought to receive an equivalent for the loss of his 
reversionary rights ; this should be in the nature of a small 
fine payable to the recognised owner of the fee. The whole 
subject of the compensation of the Irish landed gentry for 
the losses they have sustained by legislation since 1881 
would remain open, and a word or two may be said. That 
they have been wronged and despoiled cannot be really 
denied ; they have been promised compensation, in that 
event ; this could be best afforded by advances made by the 
State for paying off the mortgages on their lands, at a low 
rate of interest, the State issuing debentures, which could 
float in the market. At the same time mere family charges, 
by many degrees the largest, ought to be reduced by the 
State, as it has reduced rents ; it is sheer iniquity 
to leave these charges untouched when the State has 
diminished the security on which they rest. 2 

The subject of Irish finance must be also treated, and a 
reform be effected in this province, unless Parliament shall 
refuse to do Ireland justice. A Commission of the very first 
authority has, we have seen, reported that Ireland has been 

1 On this occasion Mr. Gladstone did me the honour to refer to a 
tract on the subject written by me in 1888, "The Land System of 
Ireland," reprinted from the Law Quarterly Review. Mr. Gladstone's 
Home Rule policy I believe to be fatal ; his Land Act of 1881 has done 
infinite mischief ; but undoubtedly he has grasped the essential facts 
of the Irish land system more thoroughly than any other British 

2 The Report of the Fry Commission has appeared since I wrote 
these lines. In grave language it confirms nearly all my strictures on 
the Land Commission ; and it suggests a scheme for fixing Irish rents 
by the State nearly the same as that which I have here indicated, and 
which I have advocated for many years. This most important document 
and the evidence attached to it ought to be diligently perused. 

360 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

overtaxed, and that for a period of more than forty years, by 
a yearly sum of between two and three millions sterling ; 
this significant judgment speaks for itself. And this excessive 
charge is all the more grievous because Ireland is a poor 
country, compared to Great Britain, poor in the extreme ; 
and, as every one knows, taxation falls more severely on a 
backward than on a prosperous people. 1 No real answer 
has been made to the Report ; the evidence it has brought 
together has not been refuted ; attempts at an answer have 
been merely frivolous. I shall glance, however, at two of 
these, the most plausible that have been put forward. 
Taxation, it is urged, is imposed on populations, not on 
lands ; but Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen are 
charged alike, Irishmen having, indeed, a slight advantage ; 
a landlord in Devon, in Perthshire, in Kerry, pays the same 
income-tax on a rental of .£1,000 a year ; so does a merchant 
in London, in Edinburgh, in Dublin, in Belfast, in respect 
of the profits he makes in trade ; so commodities are equally 
taxed in the Three Kingdoms ; the peasant in Surrey, in 
Inverness, in Kildare, is charged equally for his tea, his 
tobacco, his porter, his spirits. Equality in this matter is, 
therefore, equity ; this " Irish cry " is a mere delusion ; the 
taxation of Ireland cannot possibly be in excess. Yet this 
so-called argument is a poor sophism, apparent if we 
examine the question. Suppose that an equal tax had been 
levied from wines, when Henry V. was master of England 
and France ; would the charge have fallen equally on a 
vinegrower in Champagne, and on a farmer of Sussex, who 
never reared a grape ? Or suppose that coal were equally 
taxed in England and Ireland, would the people of England, 
a land of coal, be as little charged as the people of Ireland, 

1 Report of the Childers Commission (p. 182), quoting from Pitt : 
" If one country exceeded another in wealth, population, and established 
commerce in a proportion of two to one, he was nearly convinced that 
that country would be able to bear ten times the burthens the other 
would be equal to." And again (p. 14), quoting from the late Mr. 
Nassau Senior : "I do not believe that Ireland is a poor country 
because she is overtaxed, but I think she is overtaxed because she is 
poor." The whole of this evidence is of real value. 

IRELAND IN 1898 3 61 

a land of turf ; or that, if coffee were equally burdened in 
London and Paris, would not the Londoner, who drinks 
not much coffee, have an advantage over the Parisian, who 
drinks a great deal ? Examples of this kind might be 
added in hundreds ; equality, in this matter, may not, 
therefore, be equity ; on the contrary, it may be gross 
iniquity. And this, at this moment, is actually the case, 
if we consider the existing system of taxes ; a grave wrong 
is done to Ireland, nay to Scotland, in this respect. Beer 
and whisky are taxed alike in England, in Scotland, in 
Ireland ; Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen pay the 
same impost on a gallon of beer and a gallon of whisky, 
whether the gallon be consumed in an English, a Scotch, 
or an Irish household. But Englishmen drink a great deal 
of beer, and very little whisky ; Scotchmen and Irishmen do 
the exact contrary ; they drink a great deal of whisky and 
very little beer ; but the tax on whisky, by an alcoholic 
standard, is very much higher than that on beer ; it follows 
that Scotchmen and Irishmen are much more heavily taxed 
than Englishmen on the beverages they habitually drink. 1 
The difference comes to a very large sum indeed ; Ireland, 
therefore, and Scotland, compared to England, are, in this 
particular, unjustly charged. 

The only reply vouchsafed to this plain conclusion may 
be unconscious, but is offensive insolence. " Irishmen/' it 
is said, — I put Scotchmen aside — " are a people who have 
very bad tastes ; let them drink beer not whisky, and their 
grievance disappears ; at all events w r hisky is not a necessary 
of life ; if they choose to consume it, they really tax them- 
selves." Is it possible that sciolists, who write in this 
strain, do not see that persecution of all kinds may be 
justified on these very premises ? " How very bad is the 
taste of these nasty Huguenots," may have exclaimed the 
Camarilla of Louis XIV. ; u let them become good 
Catholics, and they will have no cause to complain ; at all 

1 Attempts have been made to prove that Englishmen drink as much 
spirits by the head as Irishmen. But the results obtained are com- 
pletely misleading, and depend on ludicrous misrepresentation. 

362 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

events their damnable heresy ruins their spiritual life ; if 
they choose to stick to it, they have themselves to thank." 
I content myself, however, with a single remark. Let us 
suppose that the case between England and Ireland 
were reversed, with respect to the taxation of whisky and 
beer, and that beer were taxed relatively much more than 
whisky ; how long would a Government last which should 
venture to make use for Englishmen of an argument that 
has been thought good enough for Irishmen : how soon 
would it be swept out of existence ? We pass on to the 
second position taken by those who have carped at the 
tenor of the Report. " It is true," it is admitted, " that 
Ireland is a very poor country, equally true that taxation 
presses more heavily on an impoverished than on a rich 
community ; but Dorset and Wilts are poor districts com- 
pared to Lancashire, Yorks, and Middlesex ; yet all these 
parts of England are charged alike ; how then can Ireland 
have a special grievance ; how can her taxation be, on this 
ground, unjust?" This argument, however, ignores 
History ; it puts out of sight the indisputable fact that 
Ireland, under the Treaty of Union, is fiscally a distinct 
country, entitled to fiscal privileges of her own, the chief of 
these being that she is not to be unduly taxed, beyond her 
resources, this being the meaning of the technical phrase of 
the "exemptions and abatements" secured to her; it 
regards Ireland, in a word, for financial purposes, as simply 
a collection of English counties. But no statesman has 
ventured to make this assertion ; no statesman has openly 
acted on it, from the day of Pitt to that of Mr. Gladstone ; 
and it is a dangerous as well as a false assumption, for it 
sets a fundamental law of these realms at nought. It is 
scarcely necessary to quote from the Report on the subject : 
"If it is asked why a distinction should be taken between 
Great Britain and Ireland, any more than between Kent 
and Yorkshire, the answer is that Ireland entered into 
partnership with Great Britain under a formal Treaty of 
Union, which did, to a certain extent, by the recognition of 
the claim of Ireland to abatements and exemptions, main- 

IRELAND IN 1898 363 

tain the position of Ireland as entitled to separate treatment, 
as a whole, so far as relates to taxation. It must also be 
remembered that, as a matter of fact, Ireland has at all 
times, since the Union, in various degrees, received such 
separate treatment. Ireland cannot, therefore, be regarded 
merely as a group of counties of the United Kingdom." z 

These arguments, therefore, may be dismissed ; comparing 
her resources with those of Great Britain — and this is 
certainly the true criterion — Ireland has been largely over- ' 
taxed for a long period ; and the overcharge may be larger | 
than appears in the Report. The Commission, however, 
we have seen, did not exhaust the inquiry in one of its 
parts ; a grave question arises whether the overcharge may 
not be subject to a deduction before the account shall be 
closed. Ireland, we have said, pays from .£7,000,000 to 
-£8,000,000 taxes ; but she costs the State, it is alleged, 
more than .£5,000,000 ; she contributes less that .£2,000,000 
to what is called the charge of the Empire. This propor- 
tion, no doubt, has not always held ; but the balance of 
-£2,000,000 or so, it seems probable, will, in the future, 
rather lessen than increase ; the Treasury, it is contended, 
has a counterclaim, in respect of the expenditure of 
.£5,000,000 and more, in favour of Great Britain and 
against Ireland. This counterclaim, as it has been pre- 
sented, must be largely cut down ; for example, the 
interest on loans to Ireland which has been paid, and the 
interest on loans which have been misapplied and wasted, 
cannot constitute a just set-off ; and many items have been 
placed against the account of Ireland— for instance, the 
expense of the Lord-Lieutenancy — which are not Irish but 
Imperial charges, and cannot form a counterclaim in a 
reasonable sense. Unquestionably, too, when the Union 
became law, it was never contemplated that sums expended 
in Ireland could be deemed a local charge as distinguished 
from an Imperial charge 2 so as to afford a ground of set- 

1 Report of the Childers Commission, p. 166. 

2 See the whole of this part of the subject ably discussed in the 
Report of the Childers Commission, pp. 22-3. 

364 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

off ; and all expenditure in Ireland that relates to Govern- 
ment and Administration, in most of their parts, must be 
deemed, in the main, Imperial ; a counterclaim, in this 
respect, cannot be very large. A counterclaim, nevertheless, 
to a certain extent, it is probable, exists ; the cost of Primary 
Education, and of the Constabulary force in Ireland is 
between .£2,000,000 and .£3,000,000 ; this is all but wholly 
defrayed by the Imperial Treasury ; the corresponding 
charge in England is defrayed from local sources, at least in 
a very great measure ; here a considerable set-off should be, 
perhaps, allowed. A few other items of set-off — one of 
these seems to be the extravagant cost of the Irish Land 
Commission — in all probability, too, may be found ; the 
Commission reported that, under all these heads, a just 
counterclaim would not exceed .£500,000 ; but, we repeat, 
it did not thoroughly treat the subject ; and ^500,000, it is 
believed, is much too small a sum. The present Govern- 
ment, we have seen, has pledged itself to appoint a new- 
Commission to report on this branch of the case ; the 
pledge, doubtless, will be redeemed ; but if a balance shall 
be struck in favour of Ireland, Parliament, it is to be hoped, 
will provide for it in a proper spirit. Ireland, indeed, has 
acquiesced many years in a wrong ; she has no right to ask 
for a change in the British financial system. But if a debt be 
due to her, she is entitled to insist on, and to obtain justice; 
the rather that from 1853 to this year her interests have been 
sacrificed to those of England and Scotland. Let Parlia- 
ment, in that event, justify the words of Pitt: "The 
liberality, the justice, the honour of the people of Great 
Britain have never yet been found deficient." * 

A Catholic University for Ireland ought to be established ; 
this measure would be simple justice too long delayed ; I 
have dwelt on the subject before in this brief narrative. 
The question must be postponed to a future Session ; but the 
present Government ought to settle it on broad and wise 
principles ; it will be upheld by the enlightened opinion of 
the United Kingdom; it ought not to fear Orangeism or "the 

1 " England's Wealth Ireland's Poverty," by T. Lough, M.P., p. 72. 

IRELAND IN 1898 365 

bray of Exeter Hall." A measure of Local Self Government 
for Ireland has been promised for this year ; I need not 
recur at length to the subject. The Bill ought to break 
down, to a very considerable extent, the system of centra- 
lised administration, and government by Boards appointed 
by the Castle, which prevails in Ireland ; it ought to give 
Irish Local Boards, which, no doubt, will resemble the 
County and Local Councils of England, large and popular 
rights of self-government. It should make some provision 
for Private Bill legislation on the spot, for this ought not to 
be carried on at Westminster, at least in its initial stages ; it 
should enable the Local Bodies to have concurrent powers 
to deal with matters in which they have common interests ; it 
should, I think, infuse a popular element into the Castle 
Boards ; it would, of course, commit County, and in fact 
Municipal Government to the County and Local Councils 
it would create. But, for the reasons before referred to, it 
must be accompanied with strong safeguards to prevent the 
Local Bodies from running riot, from doing acts of 
extravagance and wrong, and from injuring the property of 
the landed gentry ; for otherwise it would prove a deplorable 
failure, and would lead to open confiscation and waste. 
These safeguards should consist of a strong Local Govern- 
ment Board, with ample powers of superintendence and 
restraint, so that the Local Bodies should be under effectual 
control ; there should be something like an Upper House in 
every County Council, possessing a right of veto, suspensive, 
if not absolute ; above all the Superior and the County 
Courts of Ireland ought to be enabled to check and set aside 
proceedings of the Local Bodies in contravention of law. 
Subject to securities of this kind, a wise and generous 
measure of Local Self Government for Ireland ought to do 
great good ; it ought to expedite the material, even the social 
progress of a country which stands much in need of this 
reform. Not the least of the advantages it probably would 
bring with it would be that it would afford the landed gentry 
an opportunity, in some measure at least, to regain their 
position and influence among their countrymen ; they would 

366 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

certainly, from their experience on Grand Juries, take a 
natural lead on County and other Councils. I will add that 
I hope this whole question will not, as has been said, be 
mixed up with and made dependent on any fiscal question, 
whether with regard to taxation or rating ; this would be 
a bad and an offensive policy. 1 

A few other remarks may be made on circumstances 
relating to Irish affairs. The Lord-Lieutenancy was all but 
abolished nearly fifty years ago ; but it is an institution 
which has existed for seven long centuries ; it will probably 
survive for a considerable time, numerous as are the objec- 
tions that may be made to it. Royalty should certainly 
make its presence felt in Ireland ; not, indeed, that, as 
silly flatterers have said, this could effect a magical change 
in Irish opinion and feeling ; but the residence of members 
of the Royal Family on the spot would be a beneficent 
influence in a poor country, and for a community loyal in 
its true and natural instincts, though, unhappily, these have 
been greatly perverted. The times have fortunately changed 
since Ireland sent many of her noblest sons to lead foreign 
armies ; an Irishman, Wolseley, an Irishman, Roberts, are 
the foremost of living British soldiers ; but there are no 
Irish Guards, and few Irishmen in our Artillery ; we see 
here a bad tradition of the past, and a want of tact and 
sympathy. So, too, the descendants of the Scotch 
Jacobites have, for the most part, regained their lands and 
their honours ; the representative of the last of the Celtic 
Kings of Ireland has no place on the roll of the Peerage ; 
the sons of once princely Milesian Houses yield precedence 
at Court to the ennobled offspring of Cromwellian troopers. 
These things may seem trifles, but they are nothing of the 
kind, if we reflect on the sad memories of Irish History ; 
England here might learn a lesson from France, far her 

1 The Local Government Bill of this Session has been brought forward 
while these pages have been going through the Press. It appears to 
me not to go far enough in extending the principle of Local Govern- 
ment in Ireland, and to be very inadequate as regards the safeguards it 
proposes. I confess I regard it with grave misgivings. 

IRELAND IN 1898 3 r >7 

superior in dealing with populations she has made her 
subjects, as her magnificent unity proves ; Lorraine and 
Alsace remain morally her own. For the rest the essential 
differences between Great Britain and Ireland have long 
ago assured well informed persons that it is a capital 
mistake to apply the principles of mere private enterprise, 
and of individual effort to a whole range of Irish affairs, 
which, in Great Britain, have been applied with admirable 
success. The people of Great Britain are, in the main, 
Teutonic ; the people of Ireland are, in the main, Celtic ; 
England is essentially a very rich and progressive land ; 
Ireland is essentially poor and backward ; for these reasons 
alone the State ought to do for Ireland much which in 
England and Scotland may be left to be done by the 
citizen. Ireland is literally crying out for material reforms, 
which can be accomplished through the Government alone ; 
her resources will never be well developed unless Parliament 
and the Executive speed the good work. Mr. Balfour did 
much in this direction by the establishment of the 
Congested Districts Board, and by the construction of light 
railways ; but this is, at best, a beginning only ; an infinity 
of things has yet to be done. Here again England might 
look to France, a Celtic land, in which the State has, in 
this province, taken the initiative, and been supreme for 
ages ; she might even look to the records of the dead 
Irish Parliament, the Public Works of which have been 
often of rare excellence. And Ireland requires, before 
everything, material improvement ; she has suffered 
frightfully from the effects of the troubles and the bad 
legislation of the last twenty years. 

The true student of History cannot hope that the deep- 
seated and inveterate ills of Ireland will disappear, or even 
be greatly lessened by any policy for a considerable space 
of time. In 1844, at O'Connell's trial, Sheil uttered these 
fine and pathetic words — "Mad men that we are . . . 
we precipitate ourselves on each other in that fierce 
encounter, in which our country, bleeding and lacerated, 
is trodden under foot ; convert an island, which ought to 

368 IRELAND FROM 1798 TO 1898 

be the most fortunate in the sea, into a receptacle of misery 
and degradation ; counteract the designs of Providence, and 
become conspirators against the beneficent intents of God." x 
More than half a century has gone, and the old dissensions 
remain ; the animosities of race and faith survive ; Ireland has 
but just emerged from a kind of Servile War ; her feuds and 
passions of class still live, if kept down by the power of 
the law ; there is much that is sinister and vicious in her 
social order. Yet can any one feel surprised who has 
pondered over her annals, over that dreary tale of 
prolonged misgovernment, of anarchy and rebellion con- 
stantly breaking out, of conquest and confiscation of the 
very worst kind, of the fatal domination of caste and sect, 
of institutions, not beneficent, but essentially bad. Butler 
has said with truth that a life of repentance cannot do away 
with the consequences of sin in the past ; the distempered 
frame of Irish society may, perhaps, never be restored to 
perfect health. Impartial History will not determine on 
which side the balance of wrong inclines, as she looks back 
at the succession of woes from which Ireland has suffered 
through long and dark centuries ; if England and her 
rulers have been gravely to blame, let it not be forgotten 
what provocation they received, and how Ireland, over and 
over again, crossed their path at dangerous and great 
crises, and sealed her own doom by her wretched 
dissensions. For these things the Englishmen of this day 
are in no sense responsible, nor the Irishmen if they do not 
seek to revive evil memories which should be left in oblivion ; 
but the deep traces of the past cannot be easily removed ; 
they are engrained in the hearts, the thoughts, the feelings of 
millions ; they will long cause discontent in Ireland, vague 
and ill-defined, but not the less real. They will assuredly 
not be effaced or lessened by destroying the Constitution of 
these realms, or flying from present to infinitely worse 
evils or yielding to a false revolutionary cry, and seeking 
in Home Rule that " Union of Hearts," which is perhaps 

1 Report of O'Connell's trial, p. 304. The Bar and the bystanders 
rose in tumultuous applause. 1 

IRELAND IN 1898 369 

the most senseless of all shibboleths ; they will not be 
affected by creating in the Irish land a succession of new 
u interests " by means of confiscation, like the Anglo-Norman, 
the Elizabethan, and the Cromwellian, " interests " of the 
past, an evil policy which the experience of ages condemns. 
The statesman, really worthy of the name, must rely on the 
gradual but sure effects of legislation on sound principles, 
of administration sympathatic and just, above all, on Time 
moving with healing on its wings ; the " Arch of Peace," as 
the poet sang, will be yet formed over the troubled waters 
which at present flow between two divided peoples. 




Abercorn, Lord, 312 

Abercromby, Sir R., 32 

Aberdeen Ministry, 177 

Absenteeism, 5, 86, 144, 331 

Acts. Sec Parliamentary Acts 

Agitation, 74 

Agrarian disturbance, 7, 88, 147, 152, 
161, 208, 250, &c. 

Agricultural Rates Relief, 322 

"Algerine " Act, 96 

Althorp, Lord, 116 

American Irish, 97, 188, 193, 198, 236, 
242, 264, 285 
„ Civil War, 193, 196 

„ Land League, 242 
„ National League, 265 

Anglesey, Lord, 105 

Anglican Church. See Church, 

"Appropriation," 115, 117, 124 

Arklow, 40 

Arrears, 175, 262, 295 

Ascendency, Protestant. See Protest- 
ant Ascendency 

Ashbourne, Lord, 254 

„ Act, 303 

Bantry Bay, Descent on, 28, 29 
Baronial Councils, 305 
Beaconsfield. See Disraeli 
Bedford, Duke of, 69 
Belfast, (in 1798) 3, 80, 183, 326 
Bentinck, Lord G., 154 
Bessborough, Lord, 155 

„ Commission, 240 

Bills. See Parliamentary Bills 
Borough-mongers, 48, 51, 57 
Boycotting, 247, 248, 264, 291 

Bright, John, 202, 302 

Brougham, Lord, 116 

Burdett, Sir F M 97 

Burke, Edmund, 15, 19, 76 
„ Richard, 19 
„ Thomas, 257 

Butt, Isaac, 131, 214 ; heads Home 
Rule movement, 216 ; character, 
216 ; 224 ; displaced by Parnell, 
229 ; death, 234 

Byrne, Miles, 40, 65 

Cairns, Lord, 230, 254 
Camden, Lord, 24, 43 
Campaign, Plan of, 289 
Canning, 71, 77, 96 
Carlisle, Lord. See Morpeth 
Carnarvon, Lord, 272 
Castle Government, 82, 345 
Castlebar, Race of, 45 
Castlereagh, Lord, 49, 51, 52, 71 
Catholic Association, 93 ff., 101 
„ Board, 74 
„ Charities Board, 141 
„ Clergy. See Clergy, Catho- 
„ Committees, 17, 19, 23, 73 
„ Defenders, 17, 26, 82 
Catholic Emancipation — Relief Act 
(of 1793), 20 ; Fitzwilliam, 23 ; 
Grattan's Bill, 28 ; planned by Pitt, 
48 ; a bait for the Union, 52 ; 
omitted in the Treaty, 57 ; refused 
by George III., 59 ; evaded by Pitt, 
68 ; Bill of 1813, 77 ; Burdett's,97 ; 
Act of 1829, 100 ; comment on, 
Catholic Ireland, 4, 333 




Catholic Rent, 94 

„ University, 182, 219, 364 
Cavendish, Lord F., 257 
Celtic character, 67, 72, 91, 107, 156, 

174, 353 
„ language, 15 
Central Land League. Sec Land 

Chamberlain, J., 271 
Chartism, 161 
Chester Castle, 198 
Chicago Convention, 285, 287 
Chief Secretaries. See Secretaries 
Childers Commission. See Commis- 
Church, Anglican, 13, 57 ; false 
position of, 114 ; Tithe commuted, 
124 ; position (in '68), 201 ; dis- 
established, 204 ; provisions for, 
206 ; progress of, 209, 339 
Church, Catholic. See Clergy, 
„ Presbyterian. See Presby- 
Civil War, American, 193, 196 
Clan na Gael, 236, 242, 265, 276, 285 
Clare, Lord, 11, 20, 23, 24, 30, 31, 44, 

Clarendon, Lord, 162, 170, 172 
Clergy, Anglican. See Church, 

Clergy, Catholic, 14 ; favour Union, 
52 ; resist Veto, 76 ; support 
O'Connell, 94, 97, 98, 131, 142 ; 
opposed to " Young Ireland," 161, 
164 ; 185, 188 ; oppose Fenianism, 
196 ; new generation of, 232 ; sup- 
port National League, 260 ; reject 
Parnell, 301 ; 339 
Closure, 293 ; by compartments, 313 
Coercion, 66, 69, 112, 122, 215, 259 
Coercion Acts, 113, 132, 152, 197, 251, 

258, 292 
Commissions — " Bessborough," 240 ; 
11 Childers," 192, 319, 360; " Devon " 
(1843), 140, 147; "Fry," 359; 
" Parnell," 296 ff 
Commutation Fund, 206 

„ of Tithe, 48, 57, 101, 

115, 117, 124 

Compensation for Disturbance, 212, 
„ „ Improvements. Sec 

Tenant Right 
" Conciliation, not Coercion," 257 
Concurrent Endowment, 48, 57, 101, 
105, 125, 204 
Rights, 87, 146 
Congested Districts Board, 304 
Consolidation of Farms, 145, 147, 183 
Constabulary, 90, 120 
Contracting out, 213 
Cornwallis, Lord, 32, 43, 46, 48, 51, 

Corporations. See Municipal 
Corruption, 16, 51, 83, 90 
Cottars, 86 

County Government, 225, 304 
Cowper, Lord, 250 
Crimes Act, 292 

Cullen, Cardinal, 177, 178, 180, 185, 
188, 196, 232 

Davis, Thomas, 130, 159, 160 
Davitt, Michael, 235, 236, 250, 297 
De Vere, Stephen, 167 
Debt, National, 3 ; Amalgamated, 83 
Derby, Lord. Sec Stanley 
" Deterioration," 261 
Devon Commission, 140, 147 
Directory (in Dublin), 29 
Disestablishment, 114; demand for, 

202 ; Act, 204 
_ pisraeli, B., 205, 22 2, 229 
Drummond, T., 122 
Dublin, (in 1798) 3 ; 183 
Duffy, C. G., 160, 175, 178 

Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, 176 
Economic conditions — (in 1798) 3 ; 
after Union, 84 ; land, 85 ; wages, 
86 ; distress after Peace, 86 ; Poor 
Law, 125, 145 ; decrease of popu- 
lation, 183 ; distress (in 1879), 240 
Education — 

(1) Primary : 15 ; Lord Grey's Act, 
109 ; earlier schemes, 109 ; 
11 National" system, no ; 179, 180, 

(2) Secondary : 15, 230 



(3) Advanced : 15, 142ft., 181, 219; 
University Bill, 220 ff. 
Secular, 145, 179 
Ejectment Decrees, 244 
Election, General ; (1807), 71 ; (1826), 
97 1 (1835), 117; (1841K128; (1868), 
204 ; (1874), 223 ; (1880), 243 ; 
(18851,272 ; (1886), 286 ; (1892), 306 ; 

(1895), 316 

Emancipation, Catholic. See Catho- 
lic Emancipation 

Emigration, 166 

Emmett, R., 65 
„ T, 46 

Encumbered Estates Act, 170 ff 

Endowments, concurrent, 48, 57, 101, 
105, 125, 204 

Enniscorthy, 38 

Evictions, 87, 88, 187, 212, 241, 244 

Exchequer, Irish, abolition of, 84 

Executive, control of, 9, 12 

Exclusion of Irish Members, 281 

" Exodus," 167 

Famines ; (1822), 91 ; (1846), 152 ff. ; 

(1879), 239 
Federation, 135, 217, 346 
Fenianism, 193 ff. ; 232, 236 
Financial Relations — Provisions of 

Union, 58; "Assimilation," 83; 

changes in, 191 ; Commission, 320 ; 

present claims, 360 
Finerty, J. F., 286 
Fingall, Lord, 67, 71, 73, 76 
Fitzgerald, Lord E., 25, 28, 30, 31 

Vesey, 99 
Fitzgibbon. See Clare 
Fitzvvilliam, Lord, 23, 24 
Fletcher, Judge, 91 
Flood, 11, 12 
Ford, Patrick, 265 
Forster, W. E., 251, 256 
Forty-shilling Freeholders, 85, 97, 98, 

101, 147 
Foster, 50, 53 
Fox, C. J., 69 
Fox, Judge, 91 

Franchise Acts, 108, 222, 266 
French influence, 8, 16, 33, 161 
„ invasion, 25, 28, 29, 45 
Fry Commission, 359 

George III., 48, 59 
„ IV., 91 

Gladstone, W. E., 191 ; declares 
for Disestablishment, 203 ; Irish 
Church Act, 205 ; Land Act (1870), 
211 ; first attitude to Home Rule, 
218, 225 ; University Bill, 220 ff. ; 
return to power, 245 ; Land Act (of 
i88i),252 ff.;266, 268; adopts Home 
Rule, 273 ; first Home Rule Bill, 
276 ; Land Purchase Bill, 278 ; in 
Opposition, 287 ; rejection of Par- 
nell, 300 ; second Home Rule Bill, 
307 ff. ; retirement, 315, 346 

Gorey, 40 

Grand Juries, 225 

Grattan, Henry, 12, 22, 27, 28, 48 ; 
opposes Union, 54 ; approves 
Coercion, 66 ; first speech at West- 
minster, 68 ; Emancipation Bills, 
28, 77 ; death, 78 ; character, 79 

Greville Memoirs, 132, 159, 163, 168, 

Grey, Lord, 105, 116 

Habeas Corpus Act suspended, 27, 
66, 163, 197, 251 

Hardwicke, Lord, 63 

Harvey, Bagenal, 39, 40, 42 

Hoche, General, 28, 29 

Home Rule — started by Butt, 216 ; 
Party (in 1874), 22 4 ; Parnell 
leader, 229 ; National League, 260 ; 
270 ; enlarged Home Rule repre- 
sentation, 273 ; adopted by Glad- 
stone, 273 ; Bill of 1886, 276 ff. ; 
Bill of 1893, 307 ff. ; "All Round," 
346 ; unreality of cry, 348 

Home Rule Association, 218 

Humbert, General, 45 

Hutchinson, 90 

Improvements, Tenants', 87 
" In-and-out " plan, 309, 310 
Income Tax, 191 
Insurrections. See Rebellions 
Insurrection Act, 27 
Invasion at Bantry Bay, 28, 29 

„ of Mayo, 45 
Irish Brotherhood, 236 
„ Legion, 67 



Irish Republican Brotherhood, 194 
„ World, 242, 255, 264 

Johnson, Judge, 91 

Jubilee, 2 

Judicial Commission, 297 

Keogh, John, 72, 73 

„ William, Judge, 176, 178 
Kildare Place Society, 109 
Killeen, Lord, 95 
Kilmainham Treaty, 256 

Labour Rate Act, 153 
Lake, General, 41, 42, 45 
Lalor, J. F., 161, 164 
Land Bills (1870), 210 ff. ; (1881), 
252 ff.; (1887), 295; (1891), 
302 ; (1896), 318 
„ Courts, 253, 261, 295, 318, 350 
„ " Grabbers," 246, 263 
„ League, founded, 239 ff. ; 
development, 245 ; coercion by, 
246 ff.*; local limitations of, 
249 ; proclaimed, 256 
„ League, American, 242 
„ Purchase, 253, 278, 303, 318, 

„ War, 247 

Landlords, (in 1798) 6 ; new class of, 
172, 186 ; to-day, 351 

Littleton, 116 

Local Government, 304, 318, 365 

Longfield, Judge, 215 

Lords-Lieutenant : Abercorn, 215 ; 
Anglesey, 105 ; Bedford, 69 ; Bess- 
borough, 155 ; Camden, 24 ; Car- 
lisle, 187 ; Carnarvon, 272 ; Claren- 
don, 162 ; Cornwallis, 43 ; Cowper, 
250 ; De Grey, 141 ; Ebrington, 141 
Fitzwilliam, 23 ; Haddington, 118 
Hardvvicke, 63 ; Heytesbury, 141 
Mulgrave, 118; Richmond, 70 
Spencer, 215, 257 ; Talbot, 89 
Wellesley, 93, 116; Whitworth, 89 
Wodehouse, 196 

Lucas, F., 175, 178 

Macaulay, T. B., 133, 137, 215 
Magistracy, 15, 69, 105, 119, 316 
Manchester " Martyrs," 198 

Manufactures, 3, 84, 183 

Maynooth founded, 24 ; grant to, 

141 ; 205 
Meagher, T. F., 161, 193 
Melbourne Ministry, 1 18-128 
Middlemen, 5, 8, 86, 331 
Mitchell, J., 161, 163, 193, 226 
Moonlighters, 249 
Moore, Sir John, 42 
Morley, John, 315 
Morpeth, Lord, 118, 123, 187 
Mulgrave, Lord, 118, 123 
Municipal Government, 119,126, 127, 

225, 304 
Murphy, Father J., 37-42 

Napoleon, 31, 45, 65, 67 

" Nation " newspaper, 130 

National Association, 202, 207 
Debt, 3) 83 
„ Guards, 17, 21 ; 162 

National League, 259 ; clerical sup- 
port, 260 ; 263 ; 274 ; increased 
activity, 289 ; suppressed, 294 

National League of America, 265 
„ Schools, no, 179 

Needham, General, 40 

New Departure, the, 237 

New Ross, 39 

Newport, Sir J., 90 

Newtown Barry, 39 

Nonconformist conscience, 300 

Oakboys, 7 

O'Brien, W. Smith, 135, 160, 162, 163 

Obstruction, 227, 251, 293 

O'Connell, Daniel : origin and char- 
acter, 72 ; becomes Catholic leader, 
73 ; forms Catholic Board, 74 ; 
anti-Union movement, 75 ; opposes 
" Veto," 76 ; starts Catholic Asso- 
ciation, 93 ; Burdett's Bill, 97 ; 
elected for Clare, 98 ; Catholic 
Emancipation carried, 101 ; initiates 
Repeal movement, 106 ; speech 
against " Coercion," 113 ; Dis- 
establishment proposals, 114 ; com- 
pact with Melbourne Ministry, 118; 
dislike to, in Parliament, 128 ; re- 
news Repeal agitation, 129 ; arres- 
ted, 133 ; trial, 134 ; sentence re- 



versed, 134 ; loss of influence, 135 ; 
decay of, 150 ; death, 157 ; char- 
acter, 158 

O'Connor, Arthur, 25, 28, 46, 67 

O'Mahoney, 193, 194, 197 

Orangeism, 26, 30-32 ; developed by 
Union, 81 ; 99 ; repressed, 121 

Oulart Hill, 37 

Palmerston Lord, 187 

Papal Legion, 189 

Parliament in Dublin, 6, 9, 10, 44, 51, 
52, 337 ; Imperial, 349 

Parliamentary Acts and Bills: Catho- 
lic Relief (1793) 20 ; Alien Bill, 21 ; 
Treaty of Union, 57 ; Grattan's 
Catholic Emancipation Bills, 28, 
77 ; Financial Assimilation Act, 
84 ; "Algerine" Act, 96 ; Burdett's 
Catholic Emancipation Bill, 97 ; 
Catholic Emancipation Act, 100 ; 
Franchise Act (Ireland) 108 ; Pri- 
mary Education Act, 109 ; Irish 
Church Reform Act, 115 ; Tithe 
Bill, 117 ; Commutation Act, 124 ; 
Municipal Reform Act, 127 ; May- 
nooth Grant, 141 ; Poor Law, 125, 
extension, 155 ; Rate in Aid Act, 
169 ; Encumbered Estates Act, 170 
ff. ; Disestablishment, 204 ; Land 
Act (1870) 210, (1881) 252, (1887) 
295, (1891) 302, (1896) 318 ; Uni- 
versity Bill, 220 ; Repeal of Con- 
vention Act, 222 ; Franchise 
(Borough) Extension, 222 ; Ballot 
Act, 222 ; Intermediate Education 
Act, 230 ; Disturbance Bill, 245 ; 
Arrears Act, 262 ; Franchise Act 
(1884), 266 ; Land Purchase Bill, 
278 ; Ashbourne's Act, 303 ; Home 
Rule Bill (1) 276, (2) 307 ; Local 
Government Bill (1892) 305, (1898) 
318. See Coercion Acts 

Parnell, C. S., first appearance, 227 ; 
organised obstruction, 228 ; dis- 
places Butt, 229 ; founds Land 
League, 239 ; in America, 241 ; 
prosecution of, 251; attitude to 1881 
Land Bill, 255 ; imprisoned, 256 ; 
released, 256 ; Parliamentary skill, 

263 ; rapprochement with Conser- 
vatives, 272 ; accepts Home Rule 
Bill, 285 ; Commission, 296 ff. ; 
fall, 300 ; death and character, 302 

" Parnell " Commission, 296 ff. 

Peel, Sir R., anti-Catholic, 78 ; Chief 
Secretary, 89 ; 92, 96, 99 ; Emanci- 
pation Act, 100 ; speech against 
repeal, 108 ; 126, 128, 139 ff. 

Peep of Day Boys, 17, 26, 82 

Penal Code, 4, 5, 19, 49 

" Phoenix Conspiracy," 189 

Phoenix Park Murders, 257, 298 

Piggot forgery, 298 

Pitt, W., 13, 21, 23, 24, 32 ; plans the 
Union, 47, with Catholic Emanci- 
pation, 48 ; Resolution for Union, 
50 ; passes the Act, 56 ; supple- 
mentary policy, 59 ; failure and 
resignation, 59 ; return to office, 
60; 68 

Plan of Campaign, 289 

Plunket, 53, 77, 92, 215 

Ponsonby, 90 

Poor Law, 16, 88, 125, 145, 155 

Population, increase of, 84, 145 
„ decrease of, 182, 329 

Potato, 5, 146 ; famine, 149, 152 

Presbyterians, 4, 7, 52, 79, 330, 334 

Press, 74, 94, 130, 162, 195, 242, 264, 
276, 312 

Priesthood. Sec Clergy, Catholic 

Protestant Ascendency, 4, 8, 24, 70, 
81, 120, 330 

Progress, Material, 84, 145, 183, 325 

Quarter-acre Clause, 155 
Queen's Colleges, 145, 159, 181, 219, 

„ University, 145, 181, 219 

„ Visits, 173 

Railways, 123, 183, 225 

Rate in Aid Act, 169 

Rebellions: (of 1797), 30 ff.; (of 1798), 

34 ff- 5 Emmett's, 65 ; (of 1848), 162, 

163 ; (of 1867), 197 
Regium Donum, 80, 205 
Relief Act, 155 

„ Committee, 241 

„ Works, 151, 153 
Religious division, 4, 329 



Rents, rise of, 85, 145, 210, 231 ; fall 

of, 86 ; reductions, 262, 288, 350 
Repeal Association, 129, 131, 135 
Repeal Movement, initiated by O'Con- 
. nell, 106 ; suspended by Melbourne 

compact 118 ; renewed, 129 ff. ; 

failure of movement, 137, 160 
Retention of Irish members, 225, 313 
Ribbonism, 82, 89, 147, 161 
Richmond, Duke of, 70 
Risings. See Rebellions 
Roche, Philip, 39, 42 
Rome, influence from, 76, 294 
Rosebery, Lord, 314, 315 
Royal University, 230 

„ Visits, 91, 173 
Russell, Lord J., 115, 152 ff., 203 

Sadleir, John, 176, 178 

Salisbury, Lord, 254, 272, 275, 287, 


Schools. See Education 

Scullabogue, 40, 43 

Secretaries, Chief — Balfour, 292 
Castlereagh, 49 ; Cavendish, 257 
Forster, 251; Littleton, 116 ; Mayo 
204 ; Morley, 315 ; Morpeth, 118 
Peel, 89 ; Smith, 275; Stanley, 105 
Wellesley (Wellington), 70 

Secular Education. Sec Education 

Sheil, R. L., 93 

Skirmishing Fund, 237 

Spencer, Lord, 215, 257, 259 

Spring-Rice, 108 

Stanley, 105, 115 

Steel-boys, 7 

Stephens, J., 189, [93, 194, 197 

Subletting, 5 

Talbot, Lord, 89 

Taxation, 58, 83, 191, 320, 361 

Tenant League, 175, 178 

Tenant proprietorship, 213, 238 

Tenant Right, 87, 147, 148, 211 

Tenants' Improvements, 87, 147, 148 

Three F.'s, 175, 21 r, 252 

Three Rocks, 38, 42 

Threshers, 88 

Thurles, Synod of, 180, 181 

Tighe, 90 

Tillage, increase of, 85 

" Times " Newspaper, 296 

Tithe, 14 ; Commutation of, 48, 57, 
101, 115, 117, 124 

Tithe War, ill 

Tone, T. Wolfe, aims, 18 ; founds 
" United Irishmen," 18 ; Secretary 
of Catholic Committee, 19 ; in 
Paris, 28 ; capture and death, 45 ; 
character, 46 

Trinity College, 15, 25, 142, 219, 230 

Ulster, 4 ; revolutionary aims, 17 ; 
United Irishmen in, 22 ; does not 
support rebellion, 43 ; becomes 
Unionist, 80 ; growth of Orange- 
ism, 82; tenant right, 87; opposes 
Repeal, 106, 137; rejection of Land 
League, 249 ; loyalty of, 345 

Union— planned by Pitt, 47 ; opposi- 
tion in Ireland, 49 ; corruption of 
Irish Parliament, 51 ; debates on, 
53 ; Act of, passed, 56 ; defects of 
the measure, 57 ; provisions of, 57; 
commercial and financial, 58, 342 ff. 

Unionist Party, 288 

" United Irishmen," 18, 22, 25, 26, 
28, 29, 44, 46, 64 

University, Catholic, 182, 219 
„ Queen's, 145, 181, 219 

Royal, 230 

Veto on choice of Bishops (Catholic), 

Vinegar Hill, 38, 39, 41 
Visits, Royal, 91, 173 
Volunteers, 11 

Wages, fall, 86 ; rise, 184 
War of Secession, 193, 196 

„ with France, 86 
Wellesley, Marquess, 93, 112 
Wellington, 70, 83, 98, 99 
Wexford, 36, 38 
Whiteboys, 7, 27, 46, 89, 112, 147, 

161, 208, 336 
Wodehouse, Lord, 196 
Wolfe Tone. See Tone 

Young Ireland, 130 ; breach with 
O'Connell, 135 ; 159 ff. 

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